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A Series of Verse Translations from the Greek Dramatic 

Poets, with Commentaries and Explanatory 

Essays, for English Readers 



VOL. I. 




SOPHOCLES: Oedipus Tyrannus and Coloneus, 
and jfntigone. By Prof. J. S. PHILLIMORE. 
With an Introduction on The Greek Theatre. 


With an Introduction on The Athenian Society. 


ARISTOPHANES: Frogs and Plutus, the 
Trinummus of Plautus, and the Adelphi of 
Terence. By Prof. WARR and Prof. MURRAY. 
With an Introduction on Greek and Graeco- 
Roman Comedy. 

' To Aeschylus . son of E 

of Achens named and lav/ny Marathon. 

His spirit sheiks from Gela's golden sward 
'Brave-mitred Wede . thy death was myrr 

From. a. photo by D. Anders on. 








All rights reserved 

Printed by BALLANTYNE, HANSON &* Co. 
At the Ballantyne Press 


Thy hand from Earth's gay vesture caught the sheen, 
While, looking in the mirror of her eyes, 
Thy spirit drew a glory from the skies, 

And felt an air unearthly and serene. 

So reading that which shall be and hath been, 
Thy vision could transfigure Time, that hies 
On wings of Love divine, and Man, who dies 

But as the day. Earth showed thee things unseen, 

The golden seeds slow ripening with her years ; 

And lo ! as when she smiles through sunny tears, 
Building in purple mist a rainbow bright 

As our Immortals trod in old Asgard, 

Behind her veil of beauty, painter-bard, 

Thou sawest Goo" s fair face, that gave thee light. 


Orion, spare my homing dove ! Awake 

No storm, to waste his blood upon the brine. 
I have a silver sea, which needs must shine 

With that rare purple for my daughter's sake ; 

And thou, Aegisthus, for thy kin shalt slake 
Thy sword's long thirst, when I incarnadine 
The bowl that blends my heart of hate with thine. 

So let yon winfry heaven watch, nor break 

In wrath ; but burn, Selene, burn for him, 

Tea, light him to Death's bed-rite. He shall wive 

With Furies strong to scatter limb from limb, 

Go halt from a dog's grave, and hell-ward mole 
Accursed. Then, lest he taint thee, or thou shrive, 

Hide in the wrack, and beam upon my soul. 



CONSIDERING the obvious advantages 
offered by the combination of transla- 
tion with commentary, it is strange that the 
field of Greek and Roman literature has been 
so far neglected in this respect that the classics 
the basis of literary education in our schools 
and colleges are still, so to speak, sealed 
books for all but students of Greek and Latin. 
By those who do not possess the key to the 
originals they are read, if at all, with little real 
appreciation, while it is to be feared that the 
majority even of those who have acquired the 
key at much expense of time and labour make 
hardly any subsequent use of it. 

The difficulty seems to be met most simply 
and directly, not only for the ' English reader,' 
but for the more or less instructed student, by 
thoroughly annotated translations, giving to 
the latter the means of widening the area of 
his early reading and following it up in after 


life, so as to make the ancient literature a 
permanent possession. Translations on these 
lines from the Greek have the further recom- 
mendation that they go far to fill the gap and 
bring continuity into the classical work of the 
' modern side,' which is restricted to Latin. 

The deficiency has been made good recently, 
in the Homeric sphere, by Dr. Leaf's ' Com- 
panion to the Iliad,' Mr. Andrew Lang's 
new version of the Homeric Hymns, and my 
volume, ' The Greek Epic,' in the series 
entitled ' The Dawn of European Literature.' 

The present series is designed to further the 
study of the highly characteristic and complex 
phases of Greek life and thought embodied in 
the Attic drama, a province of no less im- 
portance than that of the Epic poetry, and 
demanding even fuller elucidation, permeated 
as it is by a spirit unfamiliar to modern ideas, 
and presupposing a mass of tradition, with- 
out which much of its human interest is 
lost. The plan adopted is to furnish in a 
running commentary what is required to ex- 
plain each play in detail, and in one or more 
introductory essays to set forth the more 
general aspects of the subject-matter and the 
poet's environment. 

The main subject of the Introduction to the 


present volume is the origin of Greek tragedy. 
In the next two volumes the later develop- 
ments of the tragic drama will be dealt with in 
their proper sequence. In the fourth it is pro- 
posed to include specimens of the Graeco- 
Roman as well as the Greek comedy. 

The illustrations are drawn directly from 
Greek sources, with a view to bring the light 
of archaeology to bear on points of prominent 

Verse has been preferred as the more appro- 
priate vehicle in the dialogue, and as facilitat- 
ing the use of the English text for dramatic 
performance. In the lyrical portions I have 
attempted the somewhat difficult method of 
modulated prose. A few metrical versions 
from the choruses are appended to the Transla- 
tion. These were published in an illustrated 
volume entitled * Echoes of Hellas,' with a 
portion of the dialogue, now revised. 

The translation follows Mr. Arthur Sidg- 
wick's edition of the Greek text, with excep- 
tions enumerated in the Appendix, and I have 
constantly profited by his notes. Numerous 
references attest my debt to recent researches, 
especially those of Dr. Verrall, Miss Harrison, 
Professor U. von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, 
and Wecklein. I am under special obligations 



to Dr. Carl Jacobsen, of Copenhagen, for 
photographs of two important reliefs in his 
Museum, and to Mr. Cecil Smith for his kind 
aid in selecting the other illustrations. 

The sonnet entitled ' Clytemnestra Watch- 
ing ' is suggested by Lord Leighton's picture, 
now in Leighton House, Kensington. 



SONNETS . . ..... v 

PREFACE ... ix 





AGAMEMNON ...... i 

CHOEPHOROE ...... 50 

EUMENIDES ...... 83 

METRICAL VERSIONS . . . . . .117 

COMMENTARY . . . . . . 131 


INDEX . . 218 



Collignon, ' Histoire de Sculpture,' 1. fig. 197. 
[English Photographic Co., Athens.] 


CENT. B.C. ..... Frontispiece 

See Haigh, 'Tragic Drama of the Greeks,' p. 55. 
The epitaph (Vita Aeschyli, p. 5, Dindorf) 
was inscribed on his tomb by the people of 
Gela, where he died and was buried, B.C. 456. 
It was written by himself, according to 
Athenaeus and Pausanias, I. xiv. 5. [Ander- 
son photo.] 


(MUNICH) ..... Page 4 

Obv., Two eagles seizing a hare. Jim., Nike 
driving quadriga. Cf. Agam. 112 fF. 


Fresco in the House of the Tragic Poet, Pompeii. 
[Alinari photo.] 

In the British Museum. 


460 12 

In the National Museum, Athens. [English 
Photographic Co., Athens.] 


THE SIXTH CENT. B.C. . . . ,, 50 

The names above the figures denote relatives, 
viz., grandfather, father, mother, brother, 
sisters, aunts. (Benndorf, ' Griech. und Sicil. 
Vasenbilder,' pi. i. Design restored by Mr. F. 
Anderson. ) 



SPARTA ...... Page 54 

(' Athen. Mittheil.'ii. See Gardner, 'Sculptured 
Tombs of Hellas,' ch. vi.) 


THE SIXTH CENT. B.C. . . ,,62 

(Rayet, ' Monum. de 1'Art Antique.') Two 
wailing-women are seated on the funeral 
wagon, two others stand at the tomb, where 
a cock is waiting to be offered. The ceme- 
tery is indicated by trees. 


ARCHAIC STYLE . . . . 76 

From Ariccia, probably the work of a Greek 
sculptor living in S. Italy. (Gamle Glypto- 
thek, Copenhagen.) Clytemnestra, rushing 
forward, lays her hand on Orestes' shoulder ; 
Electra stands behind her exulting. The 
women wailing on either side may represent 
a Chorus. 

[English Photographic Co., Athens.] 

(<Mon. dell'Inst/iv. pi. 48.) 



Archaistic relief (Gamle Glyptothek, Copen- 
hagen). The locality is indicated by the 
omphalos, covered with a net (agrenon). Cf. 
Huddilston, ' Greek Tragedy in the Light of 
Vase-Painting,' ch. iii. 3. 


With inscription, " Meleso dedicated me as a tenth 
to Athene. " 




THE name of Dionysus, the wine-god, has a 
twofold import even in Homer. 1 We get a 
glimpse of the romance and mystery gathering 
round him in the story of the Thracian king, 
Lycurgus, harrying the young god and his holy 
nurses on ' Nysa.' The tale has an authentic 
side ; for they are described as bearing mystic 
implements in their hands, and he is called the 
' madding ' Dionysus. A vague rumour 
had reached the poet of ' possessed ' women 
impersonating his ' Maenad ' following in 
ritualistic dances. The persecution implying 
a real resistance to the new cult is a variation 
of the Pentheus legend, which is echoed else- 
where in an allusion to the wooing of Semele. 
And there is a doubtful reference to Dionysus 
as ' witnessing ' at the ' death ' of Ariadne, 
whom Theseus was carrying away from Crete 
to the ' hill of sacred Athens.' 

1 //. vi. 132-40, xiv. 323 ; Od. xi. 321-5. 


The two streams of tradition ran more and 
more apart as the worship of Dionysus spread 
southwards. Mystic dancing and ecstasy came 
into vogue for women-pilgrims, who flocked 
to Parnassus and Cithaeron to find relief from 
a dull, constrained life. But the men of Attica 
were content with festivities and shows, till 
the god reappeared in disguise as lacchus at 
Eleusis, offering with Demeter a heaven in the 
world of the dead. 

The Dionysian cult appears to have taken 
root in two parts of Attica. It grew up among 
the farmers and herdsmen of the highlands 
(Diacria), especially in the deme of Icaria, and 
it entered from Eleutherae at the foot of 
Cithaeron on the Boeotian frontier. From the 
latter region Dionysus brought something of 
the sanctity, which drew the women to his 
' orgies ' on the sacred mountain. He had 
his local priests : the name of his sponsor, 
* Pegasos,' may possibly indicate his influence 
in wells, which the vase-painters figured by a 
Naiad emerging where he strikes the ground. 
If his own name be derived from the ubiquitous 
' Nysa,' it may be similarly understood as 
descriptive of watery mountain slopes and de- 
noting as a whole the 'sky-stream,' fertilising 
all the greenwood with moisture. But he was 
very closely linked with his peculiar tree, the 


vine, and even imagined as residing in it 

The rustic worship gave birth to legends 
such as that of ' Icarius,' who was said to 
have first received the god's gift, and to have 
perished through the ' madness ' of drunken 
boors. The story was, however, expanded to 
account for a primitive * swing ' festival (aiora\ 
at which women sang of his daughter Erigone, 
who hanged herself in grief for his death. But 
the title of the song, ' Aletis,' meant ' sinner,' 
and the swinging was but the survival of a 
wave-offering to expiate some sacrilege : accord- 
ingly a ' Delphk ' version made her a daughter 
of Aegisthus and Clytemnestra, and repre- 
sented her as hanging herself in despair on the 
acquittal of Orestes at Athens ! 

That Dionysus became the great popular 
god of Attica is seen from the fact, that every 
month but one, from autumn to spring, had 
its festival in his honour. 

First came the Oscophoria (feast of the 
grape-gathering), when vine-shoots with the 
newly ripened grapes upon them were carried 
by well-born youths, appointed by all the tribes, 
in a foot-race from the ancient temple of 
Dionysus to a sanctuary of Athena by Phaleron, 
the old harbour. A festive procession, which 
followed, commemorated Theseus' return from 


Crete, after h had liberated the Athenian 
youths and maidens from the Minotaur. 

At the end of autumn, when the wine was 
first tasted, there were the Rural Dionysia 
the oldest of all the feasts throughout the 
country. The favourite sport was the ascolia, or 
dancing with one leg on greased bags of inflated 
goat's-hide. There were singing processions 
of the tribesmen to the altars of the god, where 
goats were sacrificed. Aristophanes in the 
Acharnians (240 ff.) depicts the wine-drinking, 
the songs, and the ' phallic ' procession on these 
holidays in his own time. 

In the following month (Gamelion) the 
people were regaled at the Lenaea, once the 
festival of the Lenai, an old forgotten name of 
the Attic Bacchantes, associated with Dionysus 
Eleuthereus the god of Eleutherae just men- 

Next was the Anthesteria, a three days' 
festival, commencing with the broaching of 
wine-jars (pithoigia). On the second day the 
feast was known as Choes, * the wine-cups.' 
Here the citizens, invited by the priest of 
Dionysus and assembled by the trumpet, sat 
separately, drinking the new wine in silence 
from cups wreathed with ivy. On the same 
day the ' queen ' of the city the wife of the 
' king ' Archon, to whom the priestly office 


of the ancient ' kings ' had descended was be- 
trothed to Dionysus in his old temple. The 
last day (the feast of the ' pots,' in which pulse 
was cooked) was consecrated to the dead and 
Hermes, their guide, with the idea that the 
ghosts came out when the earth opened in 
early spring. The ceremonies have, one and 
all, a primitive aspect. It may be that all 
three celebrations once belonged to the dead 
and the Earth-goddess : that the ' Anthesteria ' 
(from fkes-, to pray) was the feast of the 
* evocation ' ; the pithoi were the earthen re- 
ceptacles used for burial ; the opening meant 
the release of the spirits. Their presence at 
the second day's feast suggests a real motive 
for those strange features, which Orestes 1 was 
called in to explain. It may serve even to 
throw some historical light on the Orestean 
legend itself, if we see in him a bloodguilty 
culprit arriving on the day of the dead and 
turned away from their feast. 

The final festival was the Great, or City, 
Dionysia, in the spring. 

We have but scanty evidence for the first 
stages in the development of the tragic drama 
through these Dionysian festivals, three of which 

1 See Enmen. 278. Cf. Verrall, J. H. S. xx., and Miss Harrison, 
ibid.; and ' Mythology and Monuments of Ancient Athens' (on the 
aiora). For the Lenaea, see L. R. Farnell, Classical Rev. xiv. 


were historically associated with tragedy. In 
brief: it originated, according to tradition, at 
the Rural Dionysia, at which, in certain demes, 
both tragedies and comedies continued to be 


given after having been produced in the city. 
Its second home was the Lenaea, where Thespis 
at first brought out his plays under the patron- 
age of Peisistratus. At this festival, tragedy, 
from the time when it was installed at the 
City Dionysia, tended to give way to comedy. 
The great spring festival was established by 
Peisistratus with a regular dramatic compe- 
tition (ag&i), in which Thespis took part, 

B.C. 535. 

Aristotle's summary notice l is as follows : 
"Tragedy, as also Comedy, was at first mere 
improvisation. The one originated with the 
leaders of the dithyramb, the other with those 
of the phallic songs, which are still in use in 
many of our cities. Tragedy advanced by 
slow degrees ; each new element that showed 
itself was in turn developed. Having passed 
through many changes it found its natural 
form, and there it stopped. Aeschylus first 
introduced a second actor ; he diminished the 
importance of the Chorus, and assigned the 
leading part to the dialogue. Sophocles raised 
the number of actors to three, and added scene- 

1 Poetics, iv. 12 (transl. by Prof. S. H. Butcher). 


painting. It was not till late that the short 
plot was discarded for one of greater compass, 
and the grotesque diction of the earlier satyric 
form for the stately manner of Tragedy. The 
iambic measure then replaced the trochaic tetra- 
meter, which was originally employed when 
the poetry was of the satyric order, and had 
greater affinities with dancing. Once dialogue 
had come in, Nature herself discovered the 
appropriate measure. For the iambic is of all 
measures the most colloquial. We see it in 
the fact that conversational speech runs into 
iambic form more frequently than into any 
other kind of verse ; rarely into hexameters, 
and only when we drop the colloquial intona- 
tion. The number of ' episodes ' or acts was 
also increased, and the other embellishments 
added, of which tradition tells." 

Aristotle, then, refers the origin of Athenian 
tragedy to improvised and ribald effusions 
taking by degrees a narrative form, associated 
with ' satyric ' song and dance, and, in par- 
ticular, with the dithyramb. The occasion (it 
is assumed) was, at first, the Rural Dionysia, 
and afterwards the Lenaea, till the drama was 
established in its mature form at the City 

' Dithyrambos ' is a term like ' Paean ' and 
' Linos ' (or Oitolinos), borrowed from a 


hymn-refrain, thurambe or thriambe, which Pra- 
tinas coins into an epithet of Dionysus (thri- 
ambo-dithyrambe). The dithyramb belonged 
to him as the paean to Apollo ; though among 
the Dorians of Sicyon and Megara it was 
chanted, early in the sixth century, in honour 
of their hero Adrastus. 

' Satyri ' or ' goats ' was the Dorian name 
of the older demons of the field and forest, 
who were assembled round Dionysus. They 
had been from of old imagined as goat-like 
cobolds, and mimicked as such by rustic dancers 
wearing goat-skins and tails. The goat-type 
had passed from them to the Arcadian Pan, 
who was a great god in his own domain, but 
wore a countrified aspect in the Dorian towns. 

The dithyramb was passing out of the rude 
stage of improvisation in the time of Archi- 
lochus (circ. B.C. 700). He describes the 
singer starting the ' fair strain, when his wit 
is kindled with the levin of wine.' In the 
third generation after him Arion, then at 
Corinth, adapted the song which was no 
longer a mere monody with refrain to the 
' goats ' (tragoi\ or singers in satyr costume, 
and invented for them a ' satyric ' or ' tragic ' 
style of music and mimetic dancing : that is 
to say, it was Dionysian, full of the joy 
of wine, the reverse of the grave and stately 


paean. His early training was in an Aeolian 
school at Methymna in Lesbos, where the lyre 
was used for poetry of the heart, such as that 
of Sappho and Alcaeus. Given such education 
and mastery of the flute music, which had then 
been elaborated for the dithyramb, it is certain 
that there was no licence, but strict musical 
method, in the new ' goat ' chorus. It was 
ordered by rule throughout and ' strophic ' in 
structure, the sections being probably arranged 
in triads strophe, antistrophe, and epode as 
in the later tragedy. It was called ' cyclic ' 
either in reference to this rotation, or because 
the chorus wheeled round the altar (thymele). 
When the later chorus had been developed 
from it, the old name, ' goat-song ' or ' tragedy,' 
survived as a reminder of its origin ; while 
the dithyramb proper was gradually detached, 
losing the mimetic element, but keeping the 
tone and spirit of its predecessor : as such it 
held its place by the side of tragedy at the 
Great Dionysia and other festivals, and was 
pressed into the service of other gods besides 

A ' leader ' was plainly necessary, if only to 
regulate the movements of the dance ; even 
the dancing described in Homer is ' led,' some- 
times by expert ' tumblers.' If Aristotle's 
brief phrase, ' leading the dithyramb,' could 


be taken as applying to Arion's chorus, his 
leader might be supposed to have chanted with 
the ' satyrs ' in amoebean fashion, thus insti- 
tuting a tragic dialogue. But here the tra- 
dition is quite indistinct. We have only late 
collateral evidence regarding the rise of this 
fashion : it appears, for example, in the Theseus 
of Bacchylides ; he adhered to the older and 
simpler form, when the dithyramb was succumb- 
ing to the domination of the flute. Against 
this Pratinas protests in a splendid diatribe, 
where, it is well said, " the fervour of the 
language, and wild luxuriance of the versifica- 
tion, appear to reflect the very spirit of the 
old dithyrambic choruses." It is known, at 
any rate, that the lyric element, as it stands 
in Greek tragedy, was of extraneous Dorian 
origin ; for the Doric dialect of the dithy- 
rambic 'goat-song' survived there, just as a 
literary variety of the Ionic remained the clas- 
sical mould for Epic verse. Yet none of the 
tragic poets were Dorian except Pratinas, and 
he changed his abode from Phlius to Athens, 
gaining his fame there as a composer, dancer, 
and instructor. 

With so much wanting in the evidence, even 
on the Dorian side, the Athenian development 

1 A. H. Haigh, 'The Tragic Drama of the Greeks.' See H. 
W. Smyth, 'Greek Melic Poets,' where the fragment is quoted. 


of tragedy is difficult to trace. The satyr was 
not indigenous in Attica. There were kindred 
demons named Sileni, represented as half-horse, 
but capering and dancing like the * goats.' 
Vase-paintings indicate a return to this type 
about the end of the fifth century. 1 But the 
Peloponnesian visitors left their name unmistak- 
ably in the afterpiece known as the satyric drama, 
of which Pratinas was reputed the founder or 
restorer. It was a travesty of some heroic 
legend, in which the chorus with its leader 
kept the character of * goats ' in their attire ; 
so much is known from a fragment of one 
the Prometheus Purkaeus of Aeschylus where 
the leader is addressed as 'goat,' and warned 
not to singe his beard (a goat's beard attached 
to his mask). 

In this curious survival a further clue is 
looked for by connecting it with the Arionic 
dithyramb, on the assumption that the latter had 
reached the stage of dialogue. 2 It is suggested 
also that the sequence of four plays, known 
later as a ' tetralogy,' had its origin in four 
' entrances ' (eisodoi) of the chorus in as many 
different costumes, after each of which the 
leader recited ; the ' satyr ' costume being 
only used in the last piece, as a concession to 

1 K. Wernicke, ' Bockschore u. Satyrdrama,' Hermes xxxii. 

2 See Wilamowitz, introd. to Eurip. Heracles, vol. i. (1889). 


the popular taste or tradition. It is evident, 
however, that the ' short plot,' as Aristotle calls 
it, would as often be unfolded when an actor 
had taken the leader's place by changes of his 
dress or mask : indeed, the term epeisodion, 
down to the end of Aeschylus' career, connoted 
the entrance of a new personage. When the 
way was opened, by whatever means, for en- 
larging the material and adapting the chorus 
to a variety of themes, the original dithyrambic 
dance (turbasia] was confined to the ' satyr- 

In such a transition the first advance toward 
regular drama would be made by the adoption 
of the simple trochaic tetrameter, a metre 
suited to narrative and even to dialogue ; it 
was retained in the matured tragedy for lively 
scenes, where a rapid descending rhythm was 
effective. At what time this came in is un- 
certain, but it appears as the metre of the 
poem of Archilochus just quoted. The iam- 
bic, an equally simple ascending rhythm, was 
brought in with it by the Ionian poets as a 
vehicle for personal reflections, precepts, or com- 
plaints. Such poems, however, were recited and 
learned by heart, especially when didactic or 
sententious, charged with the thoughts of a 
Simonides or a Solon on society and politics. 
The spirit of their own generation was thus 


voiced for the educated Athenians in familiar, 
colloquial verse, at the same time that the 
Ionian rhapsodists continued to keep the people 
in mind of the legendary past. 

To improve such recitation by means of 
simple dramatic delivery, and to link with it 
the Dorian lyric ' tragedy/ was the essay of 
Thespis of Icaria. If he was not the first to 
import the chorus in its artistic form, he made 
a new departure in appearing in person as an 
actor, delivering in his own Attic dialect a pro- 
logue and speeches, to which the chorus-leader 
responded for his troop in character, these 
dialogues leading up to new antistrophic songs 
and dances. The word * tragedy ' changed 
its meaning as the themes took a wider range ; 
for the company, which was trained and sup- 
ported by Thespis, travelled outside Icaria, 
the region of Dionysian fame. There were 
local legends to be worked up, while the heroic 
epos was known even in the country districts, 
through recitations, for instance, at the Attic 
Brauronia. After he and his chorus had been 
brought to Athens by Peisistratus, competitors 
arose, and the agon was established. That the 
Thespian play, apart from song and dance, was 
effective and of serious interest, is shown by the 
fear which Solon expressed, that the acting 
would teach the citizens deception. Not much 


can be gathered from the few extant titles, but 
one at least is significant : the E'itheoi. It was 
the word specially applied to the seven youths 
sent as tribute to the Minotaur: whence we may 
infer that the subject was Theseus in Crete, the 
love of Ariadne, the slaying of the monster, the 
rescue of the young victims. 1 Evidently the 
story was told chiefly in narrative, alternating 
with songs of lamentation and rejoicing, and 
mimetic dances, illustrative, for example, of 
the adventure in the Labyrinth. Choerilus, 
likewise, in the next generation, commemorated 
Alope, whose father, the brigand Cercyon, was 
slain by Theseus. She was beloved of him, 
and one of the Attic tribes bore her name. It 
was at this time that Theseus was being 
exalted into a rival of the Dorian Heracles 
by Athenian patriotism, which culminated 
when his remains were brought from Scyros 
by Cimon and he was installed as a divine 
* hero ' of Attica. 

It was the policy of the enlightened prince 
Peisistratus, whose reign Aristotle calls the 
Athenian golden age, to make Athens the ' eye 
of Greece ' in culture, and the political equal of 
Sparta. When the Homeric poetry had been 
collected at his instance for continuous recitation 

1 See P. Girard, 'Thespis et les debuts de la tragedie,' Rev. des 
Etudes Grecques, iv. (1891). 


at the Great Panathenaea the foundation of 
which is also ascribed to him the step from 
* Homer ' to the drama might have been made 
directly. But such a drama would have been 
dull and unpopular. The city and the country- 
folk loved song and dance and romance. The 
Attic tragedy was thus raised from the first above 
commonplace realism. The poet was required 
to produce his personages from a world not less 
unreal and romantic than that of Dionysus and 
his satyrs. The men and women of legend 
lived again, and spoke intelligibly ; but a large, 
imaginative presentation was ensured by the 
close union of the acting with the chorus. 

Aeschylus himself composer, trainer, and 
actor appreciated and supplied what was needed 
in the dialogue : that it should be carried on 
between two persons both directly concerned in 
the action, thereby introducing the contrasts 
and play of opposing motives, which are neces- 
sary to true drama. The advantage is easily 
tested by comparing the conditions under which 
he constructed the Persians, with those im- 
posed on Phrynichus, his elder contemporary, 
in his * historical ' plays. Simple as the 
former is in structure, it displays the character 
of the queen Atossa by confronting her with 
the humbled Xerxes ; whereas Phrynichus could 
do no more than represent the suffering of the 


Milesians and the tribulation at Susa by the 
lyrical wailing of the women in the captured 
city, and the wild Oriental despair of the 
Persian nobles, with a monotonous thread of 
narrative just sufficient for situations known 
beforehand to the audience. 

Nevertheless Aeschylus, like Phrynichus (the 
disciple of Thespis), exerted his skill, acquired 
by lifelong professional training, in the inven- 
tion of orchestic figures and gestures. He 
followed faithfully in the steps of a poet who 
could boast 

" Like to the infinite play of the moon-lit wrack on the 


Sea, doth my fancy alert whirl in the waves of the 

On the other hand, his chorus was always 
given a real dramatic part. The chanting of 
the queen's councillors in the Persians is the 
means of evoking the dead, like that of the 
slave-women at the grave of Agamemnon. 
On the Theban maidens in the Seven rests 
the women's duty of prayer in battle. In the 
Argive trilogy the whole action turned on the 
fate of the maidens, who formed the chorus, 
and in the extant Suppliants the dramatic in- 
terest comes to a climax in their impassioned 
lyrical pleading. The main theme of the 
Promethean trilogy was worked out by the 


chorus of Titans, the reconciled adversaries of 

We must suppose that the poet, as manager, 
arranged his ' cast,' especially for the trilo- 
gies, with careful regard to the actors' ability 
in singing, acting, and declamation respectively. 
On this assumption it is suggested l that in 
the Oresteia the first actor took the parts of 
Cassandra and Orestes, which require most 
musical skill and the highest histrionic capa- 
city ; the second actor played feminine roles 
throughout, these being lengthy and impor- 
tant, but for the most part not lyrical ; the 
third actor the rest, consisting chiefly of un- 
impassioned speeches. 

1 Wilamowitz, fferakles, p. 150 (1895). 



THE twofold subject of the Oresteia is the 
deliverance of the house of Atreus from an 
ancestral curse, and the foundation of the 
Athenian council of the Areiopagus. The 
central figure, as the title of the Trilogy im- 
plies, is Orestes, son of Agamemnon, through 
whom the house was redeemed. The crowning 
event is the trial, before the Council, of the 
issue between Apollo, his advocate, and the 
Erinyes invoked by his mother, Clytemnestra, 
whom he had slain along with her paramour 
Aegisthus, in revenge for her murder of his 

The germ was a simple tale of crime and 
retaliation, which is noticed incidentally in the 
Odyssey ', and was set forth in a later epic (Nostoi, 
' Return of the Heroes '), describing the adven- 
tures of the Greek chiefs after the Trojan war. 
But the main ethical feature of the story 
Clytemnestra's appeal to the Erinyes, and their 
persecution of Orestes was introduced by 


Stesichorus, who added copious inventions of 
his own to the old legends, standing half way 
between the Epic and the deeper, self-conscious 
melic poetry. The retribution was now made to 
fall on Clytemnestra as well as Aegisthus, and 
Orestes could no longer be regarded as simply 
praiseworthy. 1 Aeschylus followed this version 
with little or no external difference. But he 
read it in the lurid light of other poems of 
Dorian origin, hostile to the old Achaean 
families, which dwelt on dark incidents in the 
past of the house : the treacherous murder of 
Myrtilus by Pelops, the murder of Chrysippus 
by his brothers Atreus and Thyestes, and that 
of Pleisthenes by Atreus, his father, the seduc- 
tion of Atreus' wife, Aerope, by Thyestes, the 
slaughter of Thyestes' children. 

If Aeschylus did not, like Sophocles, 2 ex- 
plicitly trace back the curse to the age of 
Pelops (behind whom was Tantalus), there was 
enough in this succession of crimes to prove a 
fatal heredity : for instance, the seduction of 
Clytemnestra by Aegisthus, the son of the 
seducer, Thyestes, the immolation of his own 
child, Iphigeneia, by Agamemnon, whose father 
had cruelly slain his brother's children. This 
last incident, indeed, had been slurred over in 

1 Od. i. 298. 2 Elect. 504 ff. 


the feeblest production of the degenerate Epic, 
the Cypria of Stasinus, a writer whose foible 
was to excuse human sins and follies by Jay- 
ing them at the door of Zeus or Aphrodite. 
Iphigeneia, according to him, did not really die 
on the altar, but was miraculously wafted away 
to be the priestess of Artemis among the dis- 
tant Tauri. Aeschylus took little from such 
sources beyond the outlines of the tales. 
Arctinus alone, among these effete composers, 
appears to have created manly types of character 
on the plane of the Iliad ; his Memnon may 
well have inspired something of the warlike 
passion which breathes through the Seven 
against Thebes. Our poet did not concern 
himself with the fiction about Iphigeneia, nor 
even with the tales invented to give Artemis a 
grievance. Whatever the circumstances, the 
guilty motive was there, deepened by inherited 
depravity. He treated the story from first to 
last with a stern moral judgment, not the less 
strong because the background of ancestral 
guilt was narrowed. Such guilt, in his view, 
did but aggravate the moral evil, as it tended 
to vitiate the character and expose the soul to 
baneful temptation. Starting from the sober 
philosophy of the melic poets, and postulating 
the simple Homeric code the primitive rules 
of reverence for oaths, for the stranger, the 


suppliant, the poor his ethical standard rose 
beyond the condemnation of overt perjury and 
impiety, and direct crimes against society. It 
rested securely on a pure Hellenic ideal of 
Sophrosune, the virtue which is the outcome of 
intellectual discipline and habitual self-com- 
mand. Its opposite is, in men, that rapacious 
selfishness which he repeatedly portrays in 
vivid imagery, throwing light into the inmost 
depths of the corrupt soul. In women, it is 
the morbid desire or insane impulse (eros 
aperotos\ which he recalls in the legendary 
women, who slew husband, father, or child, 
and depicts at full in Clytemnestra. 

In the Homeric notices Clytemnestra is no 
more than an accomplice. When Aeschylus 
ventured to invert the parts, making the wife 
the actual and only assassin, he was bound to 
assign a genuine human motive, working in a 
powerful, but coarse and hard, nature. It was 
not enough that, having given herself to Aegis- 
thus, she had no better means of concealing her 
adultery and saving herself and her paramour ; 
for Agamemnon was justly entitled to kill them 
both. It is shown from the outset that she had 
nursed for ten years an intense personal hatred 
of the man, as the unnatural murderer of her 
child. Living with her one deep-set purpose 
in the strength of Calchas' prophecy, she had 


intrigued with Aegisthus, who would claim her 
and seize the throne in the event of Aga- 
memnon dying in the field. But the time was 
running out. As the predicted return drew 
near, Aegisthus kept clear of the palace, leaving 
her a sword, with which to settle his own ac- 
count. She would use it, with her own safer 
weapon, but she wanted no other aid. 

It is made no less clear that this justifiable 
motive of hatred actuated a half-savage charac- 
ter which, combined with a ferocious strength of 
will, formed a type comparable with Olympias 
in the Macedonian age of despotism, when a 
woman's mastery, such as the poet imagines, 
had become possible in Greece. Such traits are, 
indeed, implied in one Homeric passage, where 
Agamemnon tells his own story among the 
dead: "And most pitiful of all that I heard was 
the voice of the daughter of Priam [Cassandra], 
whom hard by me [or, on me] the crafty Clytem- 
nestra slew. Then I strove to raise my hands 
as I was dying upon the sword, but to earth 
they fell. And that shameless one turned her 
back upon me, and had not the heart to draw 
down my eyelids with her fingers nor to close 
my mouth." The kindred trait of sensu- 
ality is noted plainly in the drama, first, in her 
gloating over the woman's death as giving a 

1 Od, xi. 421-6 (Butcher and Lang's translation). 


zest to her nuptials, and more decisively in the 
critical death-scene, where forgetting her plea 
of provocation she confesses to her love and 
excuses her indulgence of it. Aeschylus makes 
her, accordingly, a woman so utterly heartless as 
to mutilate the dead body, which she has huddled 
into the grave at night, as felons were buried. 
It is this brazen callousness which gives her 
nerve for the personal reception of the king in 
public. Half suspecting her, he succumbs at 
last to her rigid self-possession and calm, in- 
sistent mendacity. He cannot withstand her 
serene hypocrisy, her calculated fawning, and the 
garish eloquence which, like the gorgeous pomp 
around him, conceals her cold and deadly malice. 
Yet, where the primary motive is not at 
work, the poet allows her human feeling. 
She has no interested spite, like the Sophoclean 
Clytemnestra, against her son. 1 Her forecast 
is, that Aegisthus will step in and assert him- 
self as a * tyrant * with a certain show of right. 
Orestes, being young, unknown, and without 
support, will perhaps come to terms, or he can 
be duly exiled. He will hardly take up the 
part of avenger, when his mother has thrown 
herself in the way. He will not be bound to 

1 According to Sophocles, Orestes was only rescued from her and 
Aegisthus by Electra, whom she therefore hates and persecutes to 
the verge of murder. 


attempt Aegisthus' life at any cost, because he 
was not the actual murderer. Her own life 
he will not dare to take. As for Agamemnon, 
he was disabled in the grave, and his Erinyes 
might be kept at bay with regular offerings. 

Unconscious of evil intention toward her 
son, she is startled by a fearful dream of a 
snake, as it were from the tomb, threatening 
her. Thinking only of Agamemnon, she pro- 
poses to lay the ghost by a belated offering 
at the grave. This must come from the family, 
and she entrusts it to his daughter, who is not 
in too open revolt. Before the tomb Electra 
hesitates, hardly venturing to pray to her father 
for death to the ' slayers.' Orestes himself is 
as reluctant. He needs to be goaded by the 
whole tale of atrocity, and when he confronts 
his mother, the scale is only turned by Pylades' 
warning. He is not, like the Orestes of Sopho- 
cles, a strong, resolute man, emboldened by 
his own sense of filial duty, and needing no 
prompting from the Delphic oracle. He has 
been urged to the deed by the god, and that 
with appalling threats. His own heart has 
shrunk from it, and remorse, bordering on 
madness, seizes him and leaves him helplessly 
dependent on the priestly means of absolution. 

Thus the two principal characters are 
fashioned and balanced with one main object : 


to represent adequately the issue between 
mother and son, the Erinyes and Apollo. 
Clytemnestra's act is not simply criminal ; 
Orestes is only justified as he is overruled by 
Apollo, and only commendable as the god's 
humble and pious instrument. 

Apollo's agency is ambiguous. How are 
we to regard his forcing of Orestes' conscience, 
his special pleading and strange ruling in 
favour of the father, his betrayal of Cassandra? 
The answer, it seems, must be sought in the 
unwritten history of the Delphic cult. The 
Apolline hierarchy had superseded an earlier 
religion, of whose spirit at least something 
may be recovered by inference. 

We have one salient indication in Homeric 
allusions to the * Pelasgic Zeus ' of Dodona, 
whose priests went with unwashen feet and 
slept on the earth. This was the old oracle, 
which had witnessed and survived the rise of 
the Olympian pantheon. It was appropriated 
to Zeus, the lord of the sky. But the priests 
were none of his, and the oracles issued from 
a tree, which must have been haunted by spirits 
not of the air, but of the earth, whispering 
their secrets in confidence to priests in direct 
physical contact, night and day, with the earth 
and the ghostly underworld. 

Again, there is the Delphic legend on 


which Aeschylus is devoutly silent of Apollo 
slaying the ' dragon,' the guardian of the place. 
This is the serpent which witnessed on the 
tombs of oracular ' heroes,' or those whose 
power and virtue lay in the earth, such as As- 
clepius, who was slain by Zeus with a bolt from 
the sky because he had raised a mortal from the 
dead. Here is evidence of an earlier chthonic 
oracle, like that of Dodona, the one usurped 
by Apollo as the other by Zeus. As the 
primitive hermits of Dodona lingered on, so we 
may infer that the Pythoness at Delphi repre- 
sents a succession of inspired women, whose 
office was dwarfed, when the oracle came to be 
managed, in the name of Apollo and Zeus, by 
a board of Hellenic nobles. Following this 
clue, we see in the story of Cassandra the 
history of the ' Sibyl ' the woman with that 
faculty of divination, which the Greeks as well 
as the Teutons had discovered in the female 
sex crushed out by the Delphic priesthood. 
The same jealousy, which denied honour and 
worship to women, is felt in Apollo's ruling 
that the mother is naught, that the father's 
blood alone runs in the child's veins, that a 
mother's blood may be shed by her son, pro- 
vided he is absolved with that of a pig by 
a man ' who expiates for bloodshed.' The 
triumphant plea of Athena, that she was born 


without a mother, reflects the same hostility. 
She herself is, in a sense, the counterpart of 
the Delphic divinity another embodiment of 
the Hellenic masculine intellect imposing its 
ordinances with a quasi-sacerdotal authority. 

While this lay ' Church ' administered 
the 'sacred law,' which substituted rites of 
atonement for the obligation of the blood- 
feud, the Council of the Areiopagus an older 
and indigenous institution at Athens per- 
formed an analogous office, inasmuch as it 
maintained the sanctity of human life with- 
out the barbarous justice of private revenge. 
Though thoroughly civic in its constitution, 
it was no secular tribunal. It had its own 
divinity, giving to its verdicts as solemn a 
sanction as that of Delphi, in the 'Awful 
Goddesses ' (Semnae) enshrined at its feet and 
invoked as ' Curses ' (Arse) to guard the oaths, 
on which hung the issue of life or death in 
trials for homicide. It had also, like the 
oracle, a voice in public and even private 
life, in matters concerning religion and the 
higher social duties ; and it was entrusted 
with the revision of the administration, till 
its political jurisdiction was curtailed by the 
establishment of a new official board, the Nomo- 
phylakes. The scheme of the Trilogy brought 
together these two allied bodies. They were 


equally venerable for the poet ; he did not ques- 
tion the Delphic priestcraft, and, like Solon, 
he had faith in the great Council as one of the 
anchors on which the State rode in safety. 1 

A trial of Ares was commonly supposed to 
account for the foundation of the Council and 
for its name. Aeschylus substituted the trial 
of Orestes, using another legend to explain the 
title. By a far bolder invention he brought 
the Semnae into the actual trial. This in- 
volved a marvellous assumption, viz. that 
these old Athenian demons had previously 
been Erinyes, who came to prosecute Orestes, 
but had been detained by the influence of 
Athena, and persuaded to stay by the offer of an 
Athenian cult and temple, and so far to change 
their nature that they became ' benevolent ' 
(the name by which they were called at 
Colonus), blessing the land and helping in 
marriage, as the Semnae did, so long as they 
received their dues. The Homeric Erinyes 

1 The Areiopagites, or those of the aristocratic Ephetae, who 
sat as judges of homicide on the Hill of Ares, had been con- 
stituted a Council by Solon and strengthened with an official 
element, viz., a quota of ex-archons, elected on their merits. But 
the archonship was reduced, under the democratic system of 
Pericles, to a petty paid office. Aeschylus glances (Eumen. 693 ff.) 
at these innovations, commenced by Ephialtes, B.C. 462. They 
had a general right to act for the people, in calling not only the 
magistrate, but any citizen, to account. The poet himself was 
summoned before them in consequence of an innocent allusion to 
Demeter, which caused an alarm of ' impiety ' in the theatre. 


had certainly no such attributes. They had 
nothing to do with blessing or cursing the 
land, nor with marriage. Neither did they 
sanction oaths : in the matter of the heinous 
sin of perjury men were responsible to Zeus, 
and the Olympians to the Styx. The curse, 
which they embodied, was not that which 
covered the judicial oath ; it was the curse 
of the injured suppliant, or guest, or beggar. 
Nor was the Erinys specially concerned in the 
punishment of homicide, for the Homeric 
usage was the primitive one, the condoning 
of bloodshed for a fine, with the alternative 
of pursuit and death, or permanent exile. 
Nor did she move in the world of the dead. 
If the fiction passed, it was because, however 
the vague province of the Erinyes had shrunk 
with the growth of civic authority, there yet 
remained the one form of murder which, even 
in Homer, brings them forth the murder of 
a kinsman. And with this ofHce of punish- 
ing bloodshed within the kin, on which the later 
conception of the Erinyes tended to concentrate, 
it was easy to associate the general supervision 
of trials for wilful murder. There was, lastly, 
the coincidence that the Semnae were called 
Arae in their judicial office, which suggested 
the other name Erinyes. 

This strange confusion led Aeschylus to a 


wonderful and terrible creation. These Erinyes 
were represented, not merely as ghostly wit- 
nesses to oaths, but as fiends punishing crime 
in the underworld. For there was now the 
inchoate idea of retributive justice in the grave, 
and a Hades no longer viewed as a dim region 
on the confines of Ocean, but as a vast caver- 
nous dungeon beneath the earth, like the 
Hesiodic Tartarus, the prison of the Titans. 
It was this, which was visibly suggested by the 
apparition of the Erinyes with their lurid 
torches and their snakes ; for the snake, being 
the symbol of the grave, implied that they 
persecuted the dead. The interchange, on the 
other hand, gave them the dignity of pre- 
siding, not only over the Athenian tribunal, 
but over the city. They are ranked with the 
Fates as powers governing the order of the 

What, then, of the extraordinary issue in 
debate, raised by the deed of Orestes ? Apollo, 
magnifying his own ofEce, argues on behalf of 
Delphi that even a mother's blood can be 
expiated. The Erinyes reply that no purifica- 
tion with water or blood of swine can release 
the matricide from penalties, which were in 
their keeping before Zeus was born. 

The ethical difficulty was not solved by 
this superficial Delphic casuistry. But history 


or legend acquitted Orestes, and from the ortho- 
dox Apolline point of view he had the reward of 
his piety in relieving his house from the curse. 

The Trilogy touches on two other sides of 
the Greek religion : the state of the dead, and 
the government of Zeus. 

The veil is twice lifted on Hades ; first, 
where we see Agamemnon in the Choephoroe, a 
sullen spirit, lacking his dignity, and then in 
the Eumenides, where Clytemnestra shows her- 
self to the sleeping Furies, still bent on her 
vengeful purpose, complaining of the ghosts 
who scold and mock her. When we read the 
half-magical invocation of the dead king, we 
feel the presence of a being resentful and 
dangerous, if nothing more, powerful at least 
to vex and hurt the living with dreams, terrors, 
and omens. The homage which his children 
render to him, as a god, reminds us of the 
* heroes ' among whom, in fact, he ranked 
worshipped in sumptuous tombs and chapels, 
like those of Sparta, from which we have 
representations of the living family approach- 
ing the dead in reverent humility. 1 We see 
from the second stasimon of the Agamemnon 
that the honours of the tomb the pomp and the 
laud were not reserved for princes, as in the 
Homeric age : indeed the whole tone of that 

1 Illustration, p. 54. 


homely elegy takes us to the sepulchral reliefs 
of the Cerameicus, which commemorated those 
who died prematurely, the good spearman or 
horseman, or the good housewife parting from 
her loom and her trinkets. We are far, at 
least, from the Homeric idea of a world, where 
Achilles himself confesses that he is of less 
account than a poor man's thrall on earth. 

We have in the prayer of the Agamemnon the 
poet's latest thought 1 concerning Zeus. His 
conception must have been developed in the 
trilogy, of which the Prometheus Bound formed 

OJ ' 

the second part, through the chorus of Titans 
in the concluding play. The burden of their 
songs was, we may assume, much the same as 
that of the Oceanides in the extant play : 1 

" May he, who all doth guide, 
Even Zeus, ne'er pit his strength against our will. 
May we ne'er fail, with righteous sacrifice 
Of slaughtered oxen, to approach the deities 
By our father Ocean's never ceasing tide. 

And may our words be sinless still. 
Be these thoughts firmly fixed in us, for ever to abide. 

Sweet is it to pursue 

One's long life in glad hopes and feed one's heart 
Mid sunny joys ; but shuddering we behold 
How thou art agonised by tortures manifold, 

1 The Oresteia was produced B.C. 458, two years before the poet's 

2 Augusta Webster's translation. 


Because, not keeping Zeus's will in view, 

But by thine own will taking part 
Thou gavest, Prometheus, to mankind an honour not 
their due. 

See now, oh friend, how thankless was the grace. 
Say, where is aid ? How helps the ephemeral race ? 
And knewest thou not the puny, helpless kind, 

Idle as dreams, 

Which cramps that people to the light left blind ? 
No, never can what Zeus has predesigned 

Be crossed by mortal's schemes. 

And this, Prometheus, have we surely known, 
Seeing thy mournful fate. And now the tone 
Of a far other song seems to us sped 

Than the bridal strain 
We sang around the bath, around the bed, 
When Hesione our sister with thee wed, 

Whom thy rich gifts did gain." 

The purpose of this Trilogy was to exhibit 
the Athenian Prometheus the potters' patron 
as the friend of uncivilised man in the fore- 
time, when Zeus had come of age, and Gaia 
(Earth), employing her prophetic foresight 
in his service, had aided him to put down 
the Titan dynasty, her first uncouth chil- 
dren, by enlisting against them their stronger 
brethren, the hundred-handed Giants. Pro- 
metheus was one of the unruly Titans, but 
he had his mother's ' forethought,' and with 
it inventive genius. He went over to Zeus, 


and so was left free, when Kronos and the rest 
were imprisoned in Tartarus. He was moved 
by his kindliness to resist Zeus, whose first 
ambitious purpose was to kill off the grovel- 
ling human race and create another in his own 
superior image. Prometheus had the better 
thought of raising them by giving them, first, 
fire and then numbers, navigation, augury, 
and other useful arts, as Demeter gave them 
through Triptolemus the art of ploughing, 
and as the Olympians, when Zeus had begotten 
a family, gave them higher arts, such as music 
and poetry and the palaestra. But the friend 
of humanity had to pay for his kindness, 
because Zeus was jealous, like all the Olym- 
pians, and grudging in respect of any privilege : 
as such he regarded fire, which Prometheus 
stole from the sky. The story of his punish- 
ment, in the extant play, is used simply to 
exhibit a great character the immortal, whose 
' Titanic ' courage and will defied physical 
pains, the benefactor nobly suffering for the 
grudge of a jealous Olympian god. The 
issue, however, was not the obvious one or 
right against might, but one far more subtle 
and more dramatic. Prometheus had been 
blinded, for all his forethought, by his head- 
strong and haughty temper, to refuse to treat 
with Zeus, when the Titan rebellion was still 


smouldering, and the new king, amid the 
tumult, had arrested him as the possessor of 
a certain secret, on which his stability depended. 
He sought to bend the will of Zeus rather 
than submit his own, and in this recusant mood 
underwent aeons of torment. [At this point the 
extant part of the drama ends.] Meanwhile 
Zeus, deeming himself secure on his throne, 
had released the other Titans and his father 
Kronos. They pointed the way (with * suasion,' 
perhaps, such as Athena's, when she prevailed 
with the Furies) to a change of his overween- 
ing temper, and prepared for his deliverance 
through Heracles and the wounded Centaur, 
Cheiron, who, by dying and so foregoing his 
own privilege, reimbursed Zeus sufficiently for 
the theft of fire. 

It is true, of course, that the treatment of 
Prometheus was not just ; but there was 
nothing in this picture of the divine jealousy 
which would shock the Greek religious sense. 

Aeschylus except when he strayed toward 
metaphysics and looked for Zeus in the limbo 
of ' ether ' or the ' universe ' l thought as a 
religious poet, going direct to the intuitions 
of humanity, recognising in God and Man 
alike only what is actual will, character, per- 
sonality but rising to the largest imaginative 

1 Fragm. 295, Dindorf. 


view in his conception of the Divine. He 
ascribed to Zeus a vast pervading potency in 
the moral world, such as he attributes to 
Aphrodite in the world of ' nature ' : l - 

" The lovesick earth 
Welcomes in seasonable dalliance 
Chaste Heaven's wound ; soft on her yearning breast 
His dewy kisses pour, and she conceives 
Fat pasture and Demeter's bread for men, 
And quickened from her moist embrace betimes 
The greenwood burgeons : such my ministry." 

Thus reading the popular myths, he saw 
through them a living and moving Power, 
whose government was not likely to pass away 
a god whose rule was strong and fair toward 
his peers, so that no more rebellion was to 
be expected. As Zeus showed himself wiser 
in the long run than Man's ambitious friend, 
he is assuredly wise enough for us. We must 
school ourselves to a reasonable submission, 
regarding pain as a discipline from which not 
even Titans, much less men, are exempt, and 
making the most of the Olympian boons, 
which brighten our earthly life while it lasts. 

This is a conception of a personal govern- 
ment over gods and men somewhat too wide, 
as indeed he confesses, 2 for his mythological 

1 Fragm. 38, Dindorf. 
- Again. 160-66. 


framework. But Aeschylus did not stand 
wavering on the border between religion and 
philosophy. He had learned from thinkers 
such as Anaxagoras and Pythagoras to look 
deeper than the myth, or to fill it out with 
ethical abstractions Justice, Fate, and the 
like. But no rationalism dispelled his waking 
vision of the world of gods and heroes. It 
was more real for him than for his predeces- 
sors, the Epic poets. They came at the end 
of the outworn Achaean tradition. He felt 
the larger faith, which had dawned in the 
Delphic inspiration, the Eleusinian piety, the 
Dionysian joy of life. 





A LIVELONG loathly year (1) I have prayed Heaven 
To end me this dog's watch, while here abed 
With Atreus' hoary housetop cuddling cold, (3) 
From rise to set I have perused yon stars 
In conclave o'er the spangled firmament, 
Bright-crowned majesties, who train to earth 
Winter and summertide. (7) Still on my post 
I wait a fiery token, (s) which shall light 
From Troy the timely rumour of her fall. 
Plague on this tyrant fancy/ 11 ) that hath taken 
My lady's lording heart ! Oft on my couch 
This dank uneasy bed, that hath for me 
No spell of gadding dreams ; for slumber bilks me 
And terror stares upon me, lest I shut 
Mine eyelids past all waking < 15 > whensoe'er 
I think to purge my sleepy pate with song, 
Humming or whistling, as I shred < 17 > the dose, 
I fall to poorly sobbing for our goodman 
And goodly occupation gone to bad. 
Tut, tut ! No firedrake be it, that doth house, 
Mocking my scurvy watch, in yonder murk ! 



All hail, thou flame, (23) that darkling usherest 
Dayspring and ample jubilee of choirs, 
Which Argos (24) shall array for this success ! 
Huzza ! 

Hark ! 'Tis no faltering signal in thine ear, 
Fair queen ! Haste thine uprising and acclaim 
With matin joyance ^ of the women's tongues 
Yon ruddy pursuivant, who blazons me 
Proud Ilion's defeat. Nay, I will tread 
A prelude privily. (31) My master's luck 
I score to mine account ; 'tis treble-sice < 33) 
Yon beacon-play has thrown me. Ah my lord, 
Thy household all impatient waits thy coming 
With welcome in our hands, that itch for thine. 
The rest is hush, all hush ; a lumping ox 
Hath poized down my tongue.< 36) My bedfellow 
Would voice it plain enough, if stqnes could speak. 
My closet he shall ope, who hath the key ; 
To them who know not I'm a dummerer. 



Ten long years ago the doughty 
Atrid pair impleading (41) Priam, 
Peers by grace of Zeus dividing (43) 
Throne and sceptre, 
Menelaus and his iron 
Argive yokemate, Agamemnon, 
Sped their host, a thousand galleys, 
On the war-path from our land, 
Screaming fierce their bloody challenge, 
Like to vultures, lorn and wildered, 
As they wheel above the lonely 


Nest afloat on oary pinions, (52) 
Heaven's pilgrims,( 57) 
Wailing brood and nurs'ry lost. 
Surely one on high Apollo, 
Pan or Zeus (56) shall hear the shrilling 
Plaint of birds and send Erinys (59) 
To require the robbers' doom. 
So were sent on Alexander < 61 ) 
Atreus' sons by Zeus, the puissant 
Lord of guest-right. He to Trojan 
And to Danaan appointed 
For that leman lightly wedded 
Spousal-rite (C5) of war, uncourtly 
Bouts of battle, stiff encounter, 
Shock of knapped spears and stubborn 
Knees upon the dust. Their doings 
Are accounted ; yea, the fatal 
End ensueth, nor shall guileful 
Wat'ry eyes and mock libations (^ 
Cheat the vengeance that relenteth 
Ne'er for altar-flame defiled/ 70 ) 

We, whose scot is paid, belated 
Waifs of war, are left, (74) upholding 
Thews outworn upon our stadles, 
Last support of ling'ring childhood. 
Wintry eld, all sere and leafless, 
With a weakling's strength and vigour 
Puny as the sap that quickens 
Stripling bosoms, 
Ares' leaguer empty yet, 
Though its feet are three, (so) unmanly 
Goeth falt'ring 
Like a day-lit dream, to die. 


Say, Tyndareos' royal daughter, (83) 
Clytemnestra, what betideth ? 
What is bruited, or what missive 
Hath availed, that all the city 
With thy service is astir ? 
Altars of our every guardian 
God in heaven and hell, the welkin 
And the market/ 90 * 
Are aflame with sacrifice, 
Fragrant fires from every quarter 
Soaring skyward, 
Fed with innocent caressing (94 > 
Of the virgin unction, massy 
Drops ^ from forth the regal store. 
Speak, if nothing lets thy message, 
Words of healing as thou mayest, 
For presageful 

Drear awhile besets my spirit, 
And my heart is sorrow's ravin ; 
Then, enkindled from yon altars, 
Smiling hope outbraves the gloom. 

Forasmuch as the remnant of my years is yet in- 
stinct with tuneful breath divine, (107) I am charged to 
tell of those hale warriors and the favour that en- 
couraged their marching ; how they who share the 
Achaean throne, (109) the twain consorted princes of 
Hellas' chivalry, wielding their spears of vengeance, 
were sped unto the Teucrian land by birds of mettle, 
the one black, the other argent behind. In station ( 116) 
manifest they alighted hard by the palace, the kingly 
fowl before the kings of the fleet, devouring a hare's 
body big with her brood, on the spear hand, where 


1 Twain, like our sovereign pair, 
Eagles appeared, and a hare ; 

Swift on the prey they were darting ; 


they foreslowed her running. (Ailinon ! Ailinon ! < 121) 
Weal better woe !) And the good seer of the host 
marked and divined of those glutton birds and the 
two sons of Atreus paired in their brave feather, (122) 
commanding the march and at one in warlike mood, 
and thus he expounded the sign : 

"In the doomsday of Priamos' town ye shall e'en 
make your havoc ; yea, all the fatness of the Phry- 
gian < 128 > folk and their flocks shall escheat to the spoiler. 
But ware ye that no jealousy of Heaven o'ercast your 
mighty leaguer, that is forged betimes for Troia's 
gyving. For Artemis in her virgin ruth disdaineth 
those winged hounds of her sire, who slay a wretched 
motherly hare with young unborn ; yea, she abhorreth 
your eagles' feasting. (Ailinon ! Ailinon ! Weal 
better woe !) O goddess fair ! < 140) How pleasant 
soever thou art to the rude yeanlings of fierce lions 
and suckling whelps of every wildwood beast, yet 
vouchsafe and refuse not our moiety of luck in yon 
birds' appearing half untoward. Hearken thou also 
in thy healing name, O Paian, (146) lest she vex the 
Danaan fleet with wasteful, hindering winds and 
ensue withal a strange sacrifice < 151) unlawful and un- 
clean, which shall be as a loveless and adulterous feast 
of feud ; for the house doth husband vengeance, that 
keepeth guileful record of children's blood (155) against a 
dread resurrection." Such doom the seer shrieked and 
ample boons therewith, foretold of the wayside fowl. 
Welaway ! Sing Ailinon ! Ailinon ! Weal better woe ! 

Zeus, whosoe'er he is, I bespeak in simple wise, if 
such address be pleasing unto him ; there is none other 
name, though I ponder all, nor cognisance of my 
imagining, save Zeus, which shall surely discharge my 


spirit of this heaviness/ 165 ) The mighty one of yore 
for all his fulsome valour is quite fordone and for- 
gotten, and the heir of his power was thrice thrown < 171) 
betimes and went his way. But his shall be a 
plenished wit, who acclaimeth Zeus with a glad and 
loyal voice of triumph. He hath set the lode of 
wisdom in suffering and guideth men's feet in the 
way thereof. (179) Even in sleep the heart reviveth her 
festered sores ( 180) and the spirit is chastened unaware. 
For God, I trow, sitteth stately at the helm, and his 
mercy beareth us hard. 

So the Achaeans' elder admiral defied not the 
buffeting of fate nor gainsaid the seer at all, what 
time upon Aulis' swirling race < 190) the host lay wind- 
bound and famished from day to drouthy day, men 
foundering adrift, ships and cables ruining and the 
flower of Argos shredded to waste, while the tempest 
swept across Chalcis from Strymon's shore/ 193 ) Now 
when Calchas parleyed weirdly of Artemis with the 
chiefs and spake a counterspell that e'en mocked the 
stormwind's cruelty, the sons of Atreus smote their 
staves on the ground (202) and wept incontinently ; but 
the elder prince found voice withal and cried : " To 
disobey were grievous as death, and grievous 'twill be, 
if I slay my daughter, the jewel of my house, defiling 
my hands with runlets of my child's young blood 
about your altar. Evil is on either side. How shall 
I forsake my fleet and break mine alliance ? So be 
it ; 'tis no wrong that they fondly lust for a maiden 
victim's life to bate the winds." So he stiffened his 
neck to the yoke, and hell-ward his spirit veered in 
the way of wickedness. From that hour his wit was 
turned to unhallowed act ; for a wilful delusion was 

' But the saffron livTy fluttered 

Downward from her drooping head. 
And her wistful visage uttered, 
T.ilce a.T> . words unsaid " 

I'rom a photograph hjr AliTiari . 


on him, which seareth shame and waxeth as a canker 
of sin in mortal hearts. And he consented to shed 
her blood for the wedding (22C) of his warships and the 
recovery of his losel fere. 

Naught recked that hotspur assize of her thin girlish 
breath (228) and sobbing of a father's name. When the 
litany was done, he beckoned the henchmen, and they 
hoisted her like a kid upon the altar, faint unto death 
and closely swathed about ; and straitly they gagged 
her beauteous mouth to stint her crying, lest she curse 
the house. But her weed of saffron ( 239) streamed on 
the ground, and she smote her slayers every one with 
the pitiful quivering of her eyes, looking as it were a 
painted presence (211) fain to speak unto them ; foras- 
much as her modest, daughterly voice had oft graced 
the men's banquet in loving-kindness at her sire's 
goodly board, when they sang the paean < 246 > and poured 
the wine of blessing. 

I saw not and declare not the rest ; but the wisardry 
of Calchas was not belied. Howbeit in the scale of 
justice shall your knowledge be meted with pain. ( 25 ) 
But now is forecast untimely ; 'twere like a very 
surling to challenge the morrow's message. ( 251 ) 'Twill 
come full clear with the rays of dawn. And for the 
event, well be it and well-pleasing to this poor sentry, 
that standeth in the door of Apis' land. ( 256 ) 


Leader of the Chorus. 

In homage, Clytemnestra, to thy power 
Behold us here ! For while the kingly chair ( 26 ) 
Is void, the consort of our noble chieftain 


Commands our duty. Say, or hold thy peace 
If thou had'st liefer but we fain would know, 
Hast thou some goodly news, or is it hope 
Whose fanciful perfume doth fill our shrines ? 

Clyt. Now may the morning, as the adage hath it, 

Harbinger kindness ( 285 > from her mother night ! 
I'll glad your ears with that which passes hope : 
Our Argive host hath taken Priam's city. 

Chor. How say'st ? My doubting ears scarce caught 
thy speech. 

Clyt. Troy is our own ! Now speak I plain enough ? 

Chor. Yea, joy's surprise hath tempted forth my tears. 

Clyt. 'Tis well thine eyes confess thy loyalty. 

Chor. But hast thou worthy proof to warrant it ? 

Clyt. Oh doubt it not, or deem it Heaven's deceit ! 

Chor. Art thou enrapt then by some glozing dream ? (274) 

Clyt. Ye shall not tax my wit with slumbering. 

Chor. Or hath some wingless ( 276 ) rumour tickled thee ? 

Clyt. Ye twit me as I were a thoughtless girl. 

Chor. And what strange hour hath seen the city's fall ? 

Clyt. The selfsame night whereof yon day (279) is born. 

Chor. Prithee, what messenger could post so fast ? 

Clyt. Hephaestus launched a radiant signal forth, 

Which ran in swift relays of courier < 282) flame. 
Ida despatched it first to Hermes' bluff< 283 > 
O'er Lemnus' waters, thence huge Athos, mount 
Of Zeus, received the giant torch ablaze. 
Coursing in strength so high the rosined pile 
Surmounted yon wide sea that swiftfoot light 
Swept gaily brushing o'er the level brine, 
And to Macistus' summit/ 289 ) like a sun, 
Announced its golden splendour. He nor dozed 
Nor dallied with his serviceable task. 


Far shot the blaze and by Euripus' flood 
Challenged Messapion's guards/ 293 ) who answer- 
ing sped 

The message, mirrored in a flaring heap 
Of hoary heather. Swift athwart the gloom 
The beacon crossed Asopus' plain, as 'twere 
A moonlit wrack, and from Cithaeron's crags 
Flung yet another tale of missive fire ; 
For greeting its bright advent, nothing loth, 
Their watch uplit a larger hoard than all. 
Beyond Gorgopis' bay it soared and shone, 
And climbing Aegiplanctus lingered not, 
Nor respited the fiery ordinance. 
Full soon his vigorous fuel threw aloft 
A mighty beard of flame, whose instant sheen 
Vanquished the headland high o'er Saron's gulf 
In one brave leap to Arachnaeus' cliff. 
Then from his watch, that marches with our 


To Atreus' royal eyrie flew apace 
The lineal child of Ida's parent flame. 
So was my lamp-race < 312) ordered ; each to each 
The rival fires succeeded, but the prize 
Was his, who ran from first to last alone. (3U) 
Thus passed my lord's announcement unto me 
From Troy . (316) Behold his token and my proof ! 

Chor. I will not long default my grateful vows 

To Heaven. But prithee, madam, speak again, 
Enlarge the pregnant marvel of thy tale. 

Clyt. Hark ye, this day the Achaeans are in Troy. 
Oh, 'tis a dulcet discord ye may hear 
Within yon burgh, a feud of vinegar 
And oil, that sourly wrangle in one cup ! 


Conquered and conquerors together noise 
Their twofold plight in accents twain. For they, 
Sisters and wives, are bending o'er their dead 
Downcast, and wretched children, grovelling 
Upon their greybeard sires, make caitiff moan. 
Ours, spent with yesternight's arrear of toil, 
Have catered from the city's hoard and break 
Their fast with errant chance for balloting 332 ) 
Of tale and token free ; householders all 
Of that abased city and discharged 
From their dank dungeon 'neath the frosty sky, 
They'll drowse their time and heed no watch- 
word more 

Save " merry dreams " ! Sooth, if they disregard 
Nor shrine nor god of all that kept the town 
And owned the conquered land, then may they 


Of their rich seizure be disseized. But ware 
Lest itch of lucre turn our soldiery 
To sacrilegious deed. Of their return 
They have no warranty ; the backward limb 
Is yet to run or e'er they win the goal (344) 
Of this adventurous race. Yea, though our host 
Escape the gods' attainder and no hurt 
Befall incontinently, yet the dead ( 346 ^ 
Are keeping sullen watch upon their path. 
'Tis but a woman's warning in thine ear. 
God keep us in the fickle poise of luck, 
And do my manifold and dear desire ! 
Char. Lady, thy pleasant words are e'en discreet 

As any man's. Seeing thy proofs are sure/ 35 -) 
I will rehearse my homage to the gods, 
Whose guerdon hath well recompensed our pains. 



Sovran Zeus and night, well-laden 
Argosy of glories, hail ! 
Friendly night, that o'er their towers 
Flungest wide the toils of thraldom, 
Ruin's web of His contrivance, 
All-imprisoning ; neither stalwart 
Man nor nimble lad o'erleaped it. 
Honour to the lord of guest-right ! 
Lo, the shaft whilere on Paris 
Stedfastly was bent, nor fluttered 
O'er the stars, (364 > nor fell untimely 
From the hand of mighty Zeus. 

Zeus hath hit them ; 'tis sooth confessed nor far to 
trace. They have fared even as He ordained. Let a 
wight aver that Heaven deigneth not to heed, though 
mortals tread upon the beauty of holiness : 'tis an 
ungodly conceit and plain belied in the seed of the 
defiant and rebellious, whose house hath waxed over- 
weening in rank excess. Be thine the painless way 
and thy sufficiency a wholesome wit ; for in riches 
hath the worldling no fortress, who doth grossly spurn 
and dash in pieces the pillared seat of Justice. The 
cruel temptress, that is instinct of Ate her mother/ 385 ^ 
overbeareth him ; he is forsaken utterly, when perdi- 
tion stareth on him as a balefire alight. He is dis- 
covered in the trial like to bad bronze, when 'tis 
rubbed and touched. With bruise and blood the 
flighty runagate hath cumbered his city in chase of 
birds on the wing. (393) He findeth no mercy in 
Heaven, and all his evil-doing perisheth. 

In such haviour went Paris to make rapine of a 


wife and shame the Atrids' (400) hospitable hearth and 
board. A hurtling of spear and shield and a harness- 
ing of men and galleys she left for her burghers, what 
time she flitted softly through the gate and took death 
to Ilion for the ruinous dower of her naughtiness. 
And their prophets (409) would oft mutter the burden 
of the house : " Alack ! alack for our lord in his 
dwelling ! Alack the bed that her tenderness im- 
printed ! Yonder is but the wraith (412) of a king in 
his palace, demeaned upon his lonely seat and tongue- 
tied for yearning after her, who tarrieth beyond the 
sea. Because love is no more, that was the shape- 
smith of her comely statues, their amorous eyes are 
void < 418 > and loathly. And they are but mournful ( 42 ) 
mockeries of the night, that fondly wait on him with 
a wanton conceit of joy ; for lo ! the wingy presence 
hath straightway flown from his arms and pursueth in 
the train of sleep." 

Sorrow dwelleth indeed at his hearth, and heavy 
withal is the general tale thereof; for since our war- 
ships fared from all the land of Hellas, there is bitter 
wringing of hearts, yea, in every home a manifold 
smart. Each knoweth his own whom he sent, and 
cognisance none returneth save an urn and ashes for 
remembrance. Full many a grievous load of moan 
hath Ares bestowed in our hands ; for he poiseth his 
scale (437) in the affray of spears, and refineth not gold 
but charnel dust in guerdon of flesh. And here they 
wail for a good swordsman fallen, and there they 
weep that he fought and bled for another's fere. 'Tis 
a fretful whisper of discontent that gathereth against 
the sons of Atreus, to arraign our impleaders. (449) And 
for the rest, their lordly shapes are right lordly laid in 


* They moupn awairior tried 


the graves they have won them around Ilion's wall/ 455 * 
'Tis a heavy count our kings have cast with the city ; 
the voice of her anger reciteth a people's ban (458) upon 
them. My heart is rumouring me darkly, forasmuch 
as Heaven watcheth the man of blood ; the days or 
his losel luck are foredone and pale is the remnant 
thereof, when the black Erinys maketh a shadowy 
grave for his pride and his power. A fearful thing is 
a fulsome renown ; the levin lighteth upon it from 
the eye (470) of Zeus. I desire the weal that is un- 
begrudged ; no waster of towns would I be, nor yet 
live downcast beneath a master's eye. 

Hark ! This jubilant beacon hath thrilled the town 
with sudden rumour ; who knoweth if it be true or 
some god's deceit ? What babe or dizzard would 
suffer his heart to be heated at the first surprise of it, 
and dashed anon when denial ensueth ? It beseemeth 
a woman's mettle ^ 483) to plight her fancy to the mirage 
of joy. 'Tis light trespassing o'er the pale of her 
credulity ; her reporting hath life e'en as short as 
her wit. 

Soon shall we know, if 'twas a true despatch 
Writ in those flaming signals of the night, 
Or but the cheating joyance of a dream 
That hath bewitched our sense. Yonder I see 
A herald faring from the beach, his brow 
O'erdight with olive-sprays/ 494) Our dry-foot 

Close marching with her web-foot brother/ 495 ) 


Yon wight will pass thee no mute fiery sign 
With reek of forest fuel, but pronounce 


A " welcome " (498) naught equivocal, or else 
But I am loath to speak the contrary. 
May this fair advent e'en conclude as fair. 
Whoso gainsays our prayer, upon his head 
Be all the fruit of his disloyalty. 

Enter the HERALD. 

Her. Hail to my fathers' hallowed Argive soil ! 

Now in this tenth bright year I come to thee 
With many a broken hope, but one upheld. 
Ne'er thought I here in my own fatherland 
To die and win a homely burial. 
Welcome, dear earth ! Welcome, fair peep of 


And Zeus enthroned in Argos, and our lord 
Of Pytho, whose fierce shafts are turned away 
From us. (510) Enough upon Scamander's plain 
We felt thy cruelty ; be thou henceforth 
Our saviour and our healer, O my liege 
Apollo ! All yon conclave < 513 > I bespeak, 
With Hermes, my dear patron, worshipful 
Herald of heralds. (515) Heroes all who sped us, 
Now greet and bless this remnant of our host 
Saved from the spear. Oh don your royal 


Ye lovely halls, ye chairs ( 519 > august ! Ye gods 
Of orient aspect, now with rare regard 
Of sunbright eyes < 520) receive in proper pomp 
Too long belated his high majesty, 
Whose coming harbingers for you and all 
This folk a light in darkness ; greet aloud 
King Agamemnon, by whose valorous heft 
Zeus' lawful axe hath lightly shattered Troy 


And throughly delved her champaign,< 526) laid 

in dust 

Her altars and her stablished shrines, and killed 
Outright the seed of life from all the land. 
Yea, she is humbled 'neath the heavy yoke 
Of our full-fortuned worthy, elder heir 
Of Atreus, who returns of all the world 
Most rightfully renowned. Our count is closed 
With Paris and his guilty partnership ; 
A large reprisal he hath paid us, cast 
For theft and rapine, (534) all his wager clean 
Escheated, Priam's ancient house and land 
Amerced for him with double forfeiture 
And ruinously swept away as chaff. 

Chor. Good morn and welcome, herald of our host ! 

Her. Yea, 'tis God's morn ; welcome were death 

Chor. Wast thou so heartsick, pining for thy land ? 

Her. Mine eyes outwell their joy upon her face. (541) 

Chor. Then ye had comfort of your malady. 

Her. How so ? I pray thee, school me in thy parle. 

Chor. Your heartache we requited from our hearts. 

Her. I take thee ; 'twas a fair exchange of sighs. 

Chor. Nay, 'twas a long-drawn sighing of despair. 

Her. What means this cold affront of sullen ness ? 

Chor. Silence, I trow, is mischief's antidote. 

Her. Some terror lurked behind the empty throne ? 

Chor. E'en as thou said'st, death was our heart's desire. 

Her. Sooth, 'tis well ended. Speak we fortune fair 
For what hath fair befallen in these long years. 
And for the untoward time nay, save the gods, 
Who lives for ever and a day unscathed ? 
Were I to tell of weary bivouac, 


Bare scraggy beds on deckways/ 555) hour on 


Disconsolately chronicled in groans, 
And scurvy dogholes, when we slept our turns 
Before the scowling battlements, with dew 
Thick overhead and Trojan meadow-damp 
Dripping unwholesome mildew on our clothes, 
Clamming our hair to shag ; or were my tale 
Of cruel winter, when the birds were nipt, 
Of Ida's savage snow, or sultry days, 
What time the sea upon its noontide couch 
Was drowsing soft and still But wherefore 

mourn ? 

The soreness is o'erpast alike for us 
And for our sluggard comrades in their graves ; 
So let it sleep with them ! < 568 > 'Tis foolishness 
For living wights to calculate the lost 
And smart afresh for fate's malignity. 
Enough ! I cry a loud and long farewell 
To grief. For us, the last of Argos' host, 
No mulct doth counterpoise our gross excess 
Of gain. Go, winged angels of our fame/ 576) 
O'er land and sea, and vaunt to yon bright orb : 
" Behold at last the spoils of ruined Troy, 
Heirloom and pride of Hellas, hung by right 
Of Argive chivalry in Argive fanes ! " 
Whene'er this glory goeth, men shall praise 
City and chiefs, and recompense the grace 
Of Zeus for his achievement. I have done. 


Clyt. Yesternight, when my fiery messenger 
First bruited Ilion's heavy overthrow, 


The anthem of my joy went up anon. 
Full many flouted me : " Anent yon fires 
Thy fancy hath alit a burning Troy. 
'Tis e'en the way of women, giddiheads 
Flown with their silliness." So was I chidden. 
Howbeit I sacrificed, and sister choirs 
Throughout the burgh in many a holy station 
Shouted their glad responses, while they fed 
The fragrant smouldering altar. (597) But 

enough ! 

The king's approach cuts off more circumstance. 
His own recital shall suffice for me. 
Look you, my heart is urgent to prepare 
An ample welcome for my reverend lord 
In the hour of his returning. Oh ! what morn 
Smiles fairer on a wife than when the gates 
Are opened for her spouse, by Heaven's grace 
Saved from the battle-field ? Go, tell him thus : 
" Haste to thy city thou, her darling pride, 
To find thy lady as thou leftest her, 
A very faithful watch-dog in thy house, 
Faithful to thee, the foe of all thy foes, 
Herself unchanged withal, and every seal (609) 
Through thy long absence kept inviolate. 
Nor joy of other man, nor lewd report 
Hath touched me more than dyeing toucheth 

bronze." < 612 > 

Lo, my self-praise is all fulfilled with truth, 
And shameth not a modest lady's tongue. 

Chor. Fair words thine ears have caught, and fair, if 

they (eis) 

Interpret to thee clear, thy wit will catch. 



But what of Menelaus, herald ? Say, 
Comes he, our land's beloved ruler, safe 
From all his peril with your company ? 

Her. 'Twere brief and barren profit, good my friends, 
Did I possess you but of pleasant lies. 

Chor. Would thou hadst tidings fair and true withal ! 
But false and fair is patchery confessed. 

Her. Your prince, he and his galley, in sad truth 

Are lost and vanished from the Achaean host. 

Chor. Loosed he from Ilion in your sight, or strayed 
In some fell storm that wildered all the fleet ? 

Her. Alas ! Too deftly thou hast hit the mark, 
And briefly voiced a woful history. 

Chor. What rumour of him passed around the fleet ? 
Was he accounted with the quick or dead ? 

Her. Clearer avouch is none ; ask Helios, 

From whom earth's every creature draweth life. 

Chor. What was this tempest that befell our ships ? 

How brake such wrath unearthly and surceased ? 

Her. I would not slur a favourable day 

With sinister report ; for Heaven eschews 
Divided homage. When your messenger 
Brings a mere burden of disaster rank 
Writ on his doleful brow, an army fallen, 
One wound of bleeding war for all the burgh 
And one for every stricken house, devote 
To Ares' merry murdering, what time 
He bans with forked scourge, with twofold 

spear ( 642) 
And death-steeds twain, let him, I say, who 


'Neath such a pack of trouble, chant at will 
Erinys' paean. (645) But for me, whose voice 


Of cheer and gladness bids the city bask 
In Heaven's smile, 'tis hard to mingle good 
With ill concernment. All the wrack was 


With wrath upon the Achaeans ; fire and sea 
Forgot their ancient feud and plighted faith ( 65 ) 
In warranty of ruin to the host 
Of Argos. In the deadly dark there waked 
A fell tempestuous flood, and Thracian blasts 
Dashed ship on ship like angry rams amuck 
Mid the wild ravening of the sleety storm, 
Till, scattered by that wolfish hind, they fled 
Into the murk afar. When daylight shone, 
We saw the glimmering Aegean flecked 
With waifs of wreckage and Achaean dead. 
Howbeit some pilot more than man, whose hand 
In mercy took the helm, by fetch of wit 
Or intercession kept our hull unscathed, 
And Fortune, wafting safety, dropped aboard < 664 ) 
And rode it out with us ; our ship nor dragged 
Amid the breaking surge nor drave aground 
Upon the rocky coast. Then half assured, 
Half fearful of that briny grave, we watched 
And brooded sadly in the amber morn 
On our good fleet so bruised and buffeted. 
And now (O cruel hap !) whoe'er survive 
Report us for dead men, and they withal 
In our surmise are e'en as ill bestead. 
Howbeit may the best betide ; but first 
And chiefly, deem not Menelaus baulked. 
If anywhere the sunbeams wot of him 
Among the quick, Zeus will be pitiful 
And fend untimely ruin from his race ; 


Fear not, some sleight divine will bring him 

So ends my story, and 'tis naught but truth. 


Surely 'twas a soothsay of fate, by whatsoever 
wisardry of demon tongues she was luckily clept 
Helena/ 686 ) that froward queen of strife and bride of 
the spear. A snare hight she, and a snare she set for 
ships and warriors and warraid burgh, whenas from 
forth her dainty curtains she sailed with the soughing 
of giant (692 > Zephyrus ; and scarce had her henchmen 
made the bosky strand of Simoeis, when a hunt of 
war-dogs embattled, targe on targe, were scenting 
bloody havoc on the oars' blank trail. Then was 
Ilion betrothed indeed to a namesake of trouble, (699) 
with whose wedding a writ of wrath went out to be 
done betimes upon her groomsmen for dishonouring of 
the homely board and Zeus the hearthmate. A full- 
flushed strain of Hymen was all their song at the 
first, but now 'tis a pitiful elegy that Priamos' aged city 
hath learned : " Woe worth the couch of Paris, woe 
for a hundred moons of dirge and the bloodshed of my 
wretched folk ! " 

Even so hath a man reared in his home a lion's (717) 
weanling imp unsuckled, and he is tame in the first- 
lings < 720 > of his life, a fondling and playmate of children 
and elders, dandled ofttimes in their arms and fawning 
blithely on their hands when his belly pincheth. But 
in his heyday he discovereth the wildness of his sires ; 
he maketh a feast unbidden to repay their nursery and 
glutteth him with a butchery of sheep, so that the 
servants are beaten and browsick before that godly 


priest (735) of murder in the shambles, wherein he was 
bred and housed for the ministry of Ate. 

Oh, 'twas a halcyon hour of lovethoughts that 
passed o'er Ilion's sleeping town, with her soft bravery 
and delicate glances and her maying in Eros' garden ! 
But a strange misfare and a rueful end she made of 
her bridal; for the shadow of Erinys^ 748 ) amated her 
in doleful drear, and Zeus bade their wives to a tryst 
of weeping at her bed. 

'Tis a stale parable which was uttered unto men of 
yore, that a wordling's prosperity dieth not childless, 
but hath issue of its lustihood, (754) and good fortune 
must needs choke his race with aftermath of bale. I 
dare gainsay the general tongue : 'tis the ungodly 
deed which doth beget and multiply its sinful kind, 
but a fair heritage never faileth the upright house. 

Violence is wont to bring forth a child of her eld, 
that waxeth in turn to her mischievous prime, soon or 
late, in a man's evil day ; and she begetteth insolence 
and boldness, an unclean spirit terrible and mighty, 
twin deadly shapes with their parents' visage darkening 
his halls. 

But Justice lighteneth the sootied hovel, and 
crowneth the modest life ; with disdainful eyes she 
goeth past the golden pile that is emblazed by filthy 
hands, and seeketh the pure abode. She boweth not 
her head to the drossy (780) show of riches and the 
pomp of pride misproud, but guideth all to the goal. 


Seed of Atreus ! scourge of Troia ! 

Oh, what stately 

Speech befits my liege ? What homage 


Nice, nor turning short nor duty's 
Mark o'ershooting ? 
Whatso is unreal taketh 
Many a mortal wit perverse. 
Each, if fortune frown, is ready 
With a sigh of courtly sorrow, 
Though his heart be all unwrung ; 
If she smile anon, a minion 
Leer will mask the scowl of envy. 
But the shepherd well discerning 
Looketh in the eyes of treason, 
That would flatter him with wat'ry 
Film of feigned loyalty. 
Sire, when thou wast set on warring 
All for Helen, I avow it, 
Right unhandsomely I limned thee 
For a fool whose judgment foundered, 
Heart'ning men to death with bloody 
Victim's warrant/ 803 ^ 
Now not lightly nor with malice 
Welcome we the work well done. 
Thou shalt learn betimes and reckon 
How thy burghers kept the city, 
One aright and one amiss. 
Agam. Due greeting first to Argos and her gods, 

My partners, who have furthered our return 

And that condign requital I have taken 

On Priam's town. His cause was heard in 


All under seal ; ( 813 > the bloody urn fulfilled 
With votes of death to Ilion ; for her 
No hand but Fancy's rumbled in the void/ 817) 
Hell's altars are alive and red with fumes 


Of wealth yet smouldering on her ashy grave. 
'Tis meet we pay for the gods' large desert 
Our grateful recompense. Full close the toils 
Of our o'ertopping vengeance compassed them, 
When Argos' giant broodmare/ 824 ) big with 


All for a woman, champed the town in dust, 
Vaulting her lion ramp clean o'er their towers 
What time the Pleiads set/ 826 ) and lapped her fill 
Of royal blood/ 828 ) I tender to the gods 
This ample homage first. Thy loyal thought 
Hath caught mine ear withal. E'en as thou 


I say, and advocate thy lawful plaint. 
In sooth, the generous quality is rare, 
Which owns a friend's success ungrudgingly. 
Nay, each distempered churl, whose heart is 


By envy's venomed fang, is e'en annoyed 
With twofold discontent ; he frets and groans 
For his own woe and for his neighbour's 

weal/ 83 ?) 

Full well I know and tell ye, loving friends 
Professed were friendship's glassy counterfeit, 
A shadow's spectre ; our malingerer t 841 ) 
Odysseus be he living, while I speak, 
Or dead of all my yokemates only he 
Pulled like a mettled tracehorse/ 842 ) For the 


In high assembly < S45 ) with all circumstance 
We must debate anon of commonwealth 
And heavenly concerns. Whate'er is well, 
We will confirm and stablish. Where is need 


Of leechcraft politic, we will essay 

With charitable knife or cautery < 849 > 

To stint the plague-sore. First within yon halls 

In my hearth-chamber I will greet the gods, 

Who sped and brought me back. May victory 

Follow me and bide stedfast to the end ! < 855) 


Clyt. Elders of Argos' city, I take no shame 

To tell you all my wanton heart's desire 
For this my husband. Our timidity 
E'en wanes with length of time. I read ye, sirs, 
No rote but mine own miserable life 
Through his long tarriance at Ilion. 
First, 'twas a heinous hardship for a wife 
To keep her chair (862) forlorn without her mate, 
Beset with shocking rumours, now 'He comes ! ' 
Anon, ' He brings thee ' (so they whispered me) 
c Worse hurt, that shall be foisted on thy house' ( 865) 
And for his wounds in sooth, if they had rained 
As fast as idle tales were sluiced on us, 
No hunting-net, I say, hath eyelets more 
Than his scarred limbs ; and had his death 

Whene'er they noised it, he would boast, me- 


Three bodies and three graves, a Geryon, 
The second of his line, enveloping 
His triple form with triple coverlet < 872 ) 
Of earth above him and all earth below. 
Full many a deadly noose from o'er my neck 
They brake despite my strong despair, that waxed 
With every fretting hearsay. For this cause 


Our son, the keeper of thy plighted vows 
And mine, Orestes, stands not, as were meet, 
Beside thee. Marvel not ; kind Strophius, 
Our Phocian ally, (881) tends him. 'Twos his 


Reckoning the double risk, thy life at stake 
There before Troy, the loud-tongued lawless 


In wait to fling thy council < 8S4) down ; for men 
Are fain to lift their heels against the fallen. 
Or marvel, but acquit my plea of guile. 
For me in truth the gushing fount of tears 
Is drained to the last drop, my aching eyes 
So long have watched and wept for thee, so long 
My lights (89 ) have flamed unheeded. From 

my dreams 

I wakened evermore at the light hum 
Of the buzzing gnat ; for thou wast ofter hurt, 
Meseemed, than tallied with my times of sleep. 
So much have I endured ; and now my heart 
Makes truce with grief and cries aloud, " Behold 
A watch-dog of the fold, a strong forestay ( 897 > 
To keep the ship, a stately column set 
Beneath the soaring roof; dear to thine own 
As to a sire his only child, or land 
Sighted by mariners in sheer distress, 
Fair as the daylight when the storm is spent, 
Sweet as the flowing fountain to the lips 
Of traveller athirst ! " Oh rare delight 
To scape the incubus of woful need ! 
May Heaven grudge me not the courtesies 
Of this proud greeting ; 'tis the utterance 
Of long-pent sorrow. Now, sweet heart, descend 


From this mule-wain, but set not on the earth 
Thy foot that trod on Ilion, O my liege. 
Hasten, my handmaids, < 908) as I gave you charge, 
Strew ye his pathway with your tapestries. 
Yea, pave his road with purple ; for behold ! 
'Tis Justice goes before him to a house ( 9n > 
Unlocked for ; and the rest my thoughtfulness 
That slumbers not, if the gods suffer me, 
Shall order justly to the final act. 

Agam. Daughter of Leda, (914) guardian of my halls, 
Full lengthy is thy parley ; 'tis a match 
E'en for my long campaigning. But a meed 
Of praise from others were a better guerdon. 
Away ! No womanish pampering for me ! 
Grovel not there, like some barbarian thrall, 
In gaping adoration, (920) nor beshrew 
My footpath with your livery. This pomp 
Is but a delicate allure purloined, 
To snare my feet, from Heaven's inventory. 
Honour me as a man, thy lord, not god. 
Without your carpets and your broideries 
My fame cries loud enough. A prudent heart 
Is God's peculiar boon. Call no man blest 
Till death hath sealed his life's prosperity. ( 929 > 
Be such mine armoury, and I go safe. 

Clyt. Answer and speak me thy whole honest mind. 

Agam. Honest it is, and whole it shall remain. 

Clyt. Is it some timid vow that bates thy pride ? ( 933 > 

Agam. I am no fool and speak my flat resolve. 

Clyt. Had Priam won, what state would he have kept ? 

Agam. His floor had been well damasked, like enough. 

Clyt. Then fear not thou mankind's censorious tongue. 

Agam. Nathless, the people's voice is very strong. 


Clyt. But he whom no man envies hath no praise. 

Agam. A woman may not hanker after war. 

Clyt. Defeat sits comely on the fortunate. 

Agam. Dost prize the victory in such cheap strife ? 

Clyt. Be gracious ; grudge me not the mastery. 

Agam. If thou wilt have it so, unloose me quick 
These sandals that do service to my feet ; 
And while I tread your purples of the sea, (946 > 
I pray no envy light from eyes divine 
Afar. Sore shame it is to waste and mar 
With fleshly soilure (948 > this dear-purchased 

Of broidered tissue. But no more ! I charge 


Give courteous welcome to this stranger maid. 
God's face inclines to him, whose hand is light 
In victory : the yoke of bondage galls 
No patient necks. She followed in my train, 
A flower from our ample spoil select, (954) 
My soldiers' bounty. Now, since thou hast done 
Thine empery upon me, I will foot 
Your avenue of purple to my halls. 

Clyt. Behold, the sea is there, and who shall drain 
Her mantling crimson froth, wherein we dip 
Our raiment newly as in precious pelf. (960) 
Thy chamber, Sire, hath store of it by grace 
Of Heaven ; our house is all unused to want. 
Nay, I had vowed a pile of frippery 
Beneath thy feet, if seers had published us 
Such soothsay, when I vexed my wit to buy 
Thy life's recovery. While its root doth live, 
Yon foliage spreads an awning o'er our roof 
Against the ravening dog-star. Yea, thou comest 


To this dear homely hearth as harbinger 

In winter of returning warmth ; anon, 

When the sweet breath of Heaven in the grape 

Is mellowing the vintage, all thy house 

Is filled with thy fair presence as a breeze 

Of springtide, welcoming its crowned lord. 

Zeus, Zeus, who crownest all things, ( 972 ) Lord of 

According to thy purpose crown my prayer ! 


What haggard terror doth beat with heavy wings at 
the door of my bodeful heart, and maketh a drone of 
prophecy unbidden, unbought ? My wit is cheerless 
and amort ; my courage faileth me to spew out < 98 ) this 
thing as it were some dark dream. Time hath worn 
sere, since our cabled barques were fast belaid on the 
strand, when the host had taken ship for Ilion. Mine 
eyes' very witness certifieth their returning, yet my 
soul hath lost the wont of hope, and inly pipeth me a 
strain of the tomb with no lute (99 ) nor leadman save 
Erinys. 'Tis no fancy of my heart's travail that 
setteth all my bosom aswirl in earnest with effectual 
throbs. (992) Howbeit I pray this cloud be as dust, that 
the hour shall lay and scatter. 

When mortal weal hath waxed large and over- 
cloyed, 'tis pushed hard by sickness its neighbour, 
for no balk is betwixt. Even below the fair tide 
of prosperity misfortune lurketh as a reef; yet, if 
husbandly caution make a convenient jettison, the 
house foundereth not quite, though it ride hawse-full 
in calamity. Zeus droppeth fatness and seasonable 
plenty in the furrows, and lo ! famine perisheth from 


the earth. But what spell < 1021) shall call back the red 
blood, which is once spilt at the slayer's feet ? Else 
had not Zeus warily smitten him/ 1024 ) whose wisardry 
raised men from the dead. But that Heaven hath 
appointed stations/ 1026 ) whereof the one letteth the 
other from presumption, my heart would outrun my 
tongue and outpour all its burden. But now my soul 
crieth moodily in the dark, thinking never to unravel 
the skein of my feverish surmise. 


Clyt. Hearken to me, Cassandra, get thee in, 

Since of his mercy Zeus hath housed thee here, 
Appointing thee to take thy place and part 
With washen hands 'fore him, our lord of wealth, 
Among my goodly train of servitors. 
Leave the mule-wain, I bid thee. Nay, no airs ! 
Alcmena's doughty son, e'en he, they tell, 
Was sold and brooked to eat the bondsman's 

bread/ 1041 ) 

'Tis a rare boon withal, if one demeaned 
By fortune's adverse poise be thralled to pride 
Of lordly heritage ; your upstart wights, 
Laden by hazard with their golden sheaves, 
Are gripers strict and merciless outright/ 1045 ) 
From us thou hast thy customary due. 

Chor. Hark, she hath spoken plainly in thine ear, 
And since the toils of fate are fast on thee, 
Obedience were a better shift than none. 

Clyt. I would fain reason with her, if my words 
Pass to her wit, so she be not uncouth 
Of tongue and talk in marten twittering/ 1050 ) 


Char. Do as she counsels thee, lest worse befall ; 

Rise from thy chariot seat and follow her. 
Clyt. Nay, I'll not dally with her at the gate. 

There, by our midmost hearth ( 1050 > aflame within 

The sheep are standing, and our fire awaits 

Guerdon of bloodshed for this boon unhoped. 

If thou wilt do thy part, make no delay. 

Lift thy barbaric hand, if all my speech 

Is strange to thee, and give us silent signs. 
Chor. Sooth, she is strange ; her signs are hard to read. 

She frets like some wild creature in the net. 
Clyt. Oh, she is mad, or some distempered mood 

Is on her. She, a prisoner freshly torn 

From ruined Troy, must champ away her rage 

In blood or e'er she learns to bear the curb ! 

She flouts me ; I will waste my words no more. 
Chor. She is too pitiful for anger. Come, 

Poor maiden, prithee quit thy chariot. 

Handsel betimes the yoke thou canst not scape. 
Cass. Woe ! Woe ! Avaunt ! Apollo ! O Apollo ! 
Chor. Art crying woe on Loxias ? No ear 

Hath our wise lord for doleful minstrelsy/ 1076 ) 
Cass. Woe ! Woe ! Avaunt ! Apollo ! O Apollo ! 
Chor. Again her boding wail affronts yon god, 

Our holy one, whom deathful sounds annoy. 
Cass. Apollo ! Apollo ! Thou god of ways ! An 
Apollyon 1081 art thou, who hast undone me twice 
and utterly. 

Chor. Ah, 'tis some telltale soothsay of herself. 

Poor heart, so big with fate beneath the yoke ! 
Cass. Apollo ! Apollo ! Thou god of ways ! O 


my undoer, what way hast thou led me ? What 
house is this ? 

Chor. 'Tis Atreus' palace. If thou knowest not, 
I tell thee sooth, nor shalt thou gainsay me. 

Cass. Nay, 'tis an ungodly house ; how many and 
near in blood have bled and hung here ! The floor 
is wet as 'twere a butchery. 

Chor. Aha ! this scentful sleuth-hound at our door 
Goes questing on some trail of manslaughter. 

Cass. Yonder is my witness and avouch, yon 
slaughtered babes making moan for a father, who 
devoured their sodden flesh. 

Chor. O famous oracle ! Howbeit we ask 

No stale interpreting of things foregone. 

Cass. O God, what strange thing doth she devise ? 
What strange device and hurtful to wound her kin- 
dred unto death ? And help is none in the house, far 
or near. 

Chor. I am at fault, now she divines no more 
Of what I knew and all the city bruits. 

Cass. Ah wretch, wilt thou do it ? The lord of 
thy bed and fresh from thy bath of cleansing ! How 
shall I tell thy doing ? 'Twill out anon ! She is 
spreading something to the stretch of her arms/ 1111 ) 

Chor. My understanding goes astray again 

Betwixt her riddles and blear prophecies. 

Cass. Ah ! out upon it ! What is that hellish net 
I espy ? 'Tis his wife, who maketh him a deathbed 
of her bloody toils. Shout, ye sprites of ravin, for a 
stoning ( 1117) at your altar in this house. 


Chor. What yelling fiend of wrath dost wake, to ban 
Our house ? My spirit blanches at thy speech. 
Yea, the blood courseth to my heart ( 1121 > pale as when 
it ebbs away and fleets with the waning of life's ray ; 
for perdition cometh apace. 

Cass. Oh, ware ! ware ! Keep the bull from the 
heifer ! With her crafty felon horn she hath him in 
the drapery ,( 1127 ) Hah ! a blow, a body flashing the 
water ! I tell you, there is bloody treason doing in 
the bath. 

Chor. Albeit I am no nice judge professed 

Of prophecies, I argue ill of this. 
But what comfortable tidings fare to men's ears from 
your oracling ? A drone of terror is all the burden 
of these wordy canticles. (1135) 

Cass. Ah me, how hath fate o'ertaken and foredone 
me ! In this cup of sorrow my own plaint is poured. 
Ah woe is me ! Why hast thou brought me 

To bear thee company, forsooth, in death ? 

Chor. 'Tis some witching strain that hags thy sense. 
Thou makest thine elegy like the russet nightingale 
with her weary heartsick moaning for Itys, for 
j t y S (iH4) an( j the trouble that burgeoned on her life. 

Cass. Ah, she doth but warble of her dead self. 
For her 'twas a sweet tearless passing unto that 
winged shape, wherewith the gods clothed her. But 
for me awaits a forked blade to cleave my flesh in 
twain.< 1149 > 

Chor. Whence hast thou these wanton throes of 
prophecy troubling thy tongue, that thou singest us 


this jangled chime of thy dismal, doting quavers ? 
What strange sacring was thine, thou ribald oracle ? 

Cass. Alas for Paris and the house that rueth his 
wedding. Alas, Scamander, my fatherly stream ! I 
was thy nursling once and a child on thy banks. But 
soon, methinks, mine oracles shall return to Cocytos 
and the banks of Acheron. (1160) 

Chor. What is this boding thou speakest in a strain 
too clear ? Any mortal babe might read it. My heart 
doth inly ache and bleed for my distressful plight, and 
mine ears are filled with the wonder of thy sorrowful 

Cass. Alas for my city's sore tribulation and her 
undoing. Nothing worth was the multitude of my 
father's cattle offered from his meads, whose blood 
was poured out before her towers. For they are 
fallen and fallen is she without avail, and I must 
quickly lay my tingling ear (1172) to earth. 

Chor. Again thine importunate boding strain ; nay, 
some fiendful power hath fallen upon thee, and 
shrewdly set thy tongue to this hideous rhyme ot 
death, whereof I know not the import nor the end. 
Cass. Lo now, no longer shall mine oracle 

Peep from its veil, like a new-spoused maid. (1179) 
Methinks 'twill rush upon you as the wind 
Freshening at daybreak, and a huger wave 
Of woe shall greet it) looming in the light/ 1182 ) 
Hear ye my rede no more in riddling wise, 
And bear me patient witness, while I scent 
The trail of ancient misdeeds, step by step. 
There houses here a choir, which never quits 
Your habitation, and their voices chime (1187) 
In cursing, not in blessing. 'Tis the rout 



Of sister Furies, who will not depart, 

For they are drunk with mortal blood, and 

bold/ 1190 > 

And fastened on the house, with one refrain 
They sing its first damnation and anon 
Tell of a loathly bed profaned (1193 > and rife 
With hate unbrotherly. Say, have I missed 
Or watch my vantage of the bow ? Am I 
A vagrant babbler, prophesying lies ? 
Attest and straitly swear it, that I know (119T) 
The sins which time hath storied on these walls. 

Chor. Go to ! No salve is in an oath, but pain, 
Its very element. I marvel thou, 
Bred far beyond the sea, dost featly tell 
Of our strange-spoken city, as 'twere thine. 

Cass. My sacring was of him, your holy one. 

Chor. Was he enamoured of thy maidenhood ? 

Cass. I was ashamed erewhile to speak of him. 

Chor. Yes, all are daintier in prosperity. 

Cass. His wooing was the very breath of love. 

Chor. And came ye to your bedrite, as was due ? 

Cass. I plighted him my faith and kept it not. 

Chor. Wast thou e'en then full-fraught with prophecy ? 

Cass. Yea, all the city's woe was on my lips. 

Chor. What fell redress had Loxias of thee ? 

Cass. No man believed me more, when I had sinned. 

Chor. Thy wisdom hath its warranty from us. 

Cass. O misery ! 

Again a horrid whisper at my heart ; 

It throbs and reels with boding vision stark. 

Behold ye by the threshold bodies frail 

As phantoms of a dream. See, they are boys, 

Dead peradventure by a kinsman's hand, 


Who took their baby lives ; their hands are 


With flesh and entrails, rueful cheer that passed 
Their father's lips. See ! Flesh of his own 

flesh ! 

For this I tell you, there is one who plots < 1223) 
Vengeance : a dastard lion keeps the lair 
And couches in the master's place, ah me ! 
My master, for his yoke is on my neck. 
He knows not, he, your admiral, whose hand 
Spoiled Ilion what sinister success 
Shall wait upon the fulsome minioning 
Of that vile lecher's tongue, where mischief 


And hatches. Out upon her daring ! She 
To slay a man ! What name of beast obscene 
Befits her ? Cockatrice ? < 1233) Or is she clept 
A Scylla killing sailors on her rocks ? 
A rampant priest (1235) of Hell, who breathes 

a ban 

Of mortal hate against her kin ? For hark ! 
She yells her jubilant defiance, bold 
As one who routs a broken foe, and laughs 
A feigned welcome loud. Ah sirs, what boots 
Your misbelief ? Ye shall not gainsay fate 
Nor me in the hour that cometh, but for ruth 
Aver my prophecy was all too true. 

Chor. I know the horror of Thyestes' feast, 

Who ate his children's flesh. 'Tis ghastly truth, 
No pale presentment, that offends mine ear. 
But for the rest my wit runs all astray. 

Cass. Thine eyes shall witness Agamemnon dead. 

Chor. Peace, wretch ! Enough of thy disastrous prate ! 


Cass. 'Tis spoken ! Paeon < 1248 > may not salve my 

Char. Not if this thing shall be, which Heaven forfend ! 

Cass. Murder is busy ; 'twill belate thy prayer. 

Chor. What man is he, who brings this woe to pass ? 

Cass. How hath mine oracle escaped thy ken ! 

Chor. Nay, I discern not who nor what's at work. 

Cass. Yet your Greek speech is pat upon my tongue. 

Chor. Yea, Pytho's riddling parle is Greek withal. 

Cass. O God ! The fire again ! The burning fire ! 
Alas, alas for me, O Lord of light ! < 1257 > 
Yon woman-lion couching with a wolf, 
That knavish wolf within the kingly lair, 
Will raven me, ah pity ! For my wrong 
He is rewarded ; to the sword she whets (1262 > 
His life is forfeit. But she vows, methinks, 
Her poisoned cup of malice holds enough 
To guerdon me besides. Why do I keep 
This mockery of myself, this mantic wand, 
These chaplets on my neck ? (1265) I will destroy 
Thee < 1266) ere I die : lie there and rot, with me, 
Or deck some other with your deadly pride. 
But see, Apollo's hands are stripping me 
Of my prophetic robe. (1270) Aye, he endured 
To see me walk, 'mid wanton scorn and loud 
Of masked enemies, in this array ; 
Endured to hear them call me vagabond 
And fortune-teller, beggar, starveling wretch. 
All this I bore and now the seer divine, 
Who made me and unmade me, drags his seer 
To die upon no altar of my home. 
There, on her reeking block, (1277) I am to bleed 
Like any slaughtered victim. But the gods 


Will leave us not dishonoured in our graves. 
One day our champion shall arise, a child 
Born to avenge his sire and take her life, 
Who gave him birth. An exile frpm this land 
And outcast, he shall yet return, to crown 
His kindred's ruin. For a mighty oath 
Is sworn in Heaven, that the couched dead 
Shall call and bring him to his own. And I, 
Why should I dwell a mourner in their gates, 
Since I have seen mine Ilion fordone, 
And Heaven's verdict hath gone forth 'gainst you, 
Conquerors of my city ? I will pass 
My patient way to death. But to this door 
I speak and pray, e'en as 'twere Hades' gate, 
The blow be timely : may I close mine eyes 
Unpained and softly pour my life away. 

Chor. Enough, poor maid, so wise, so woe-begone ! 
If thou bespeakest death e'en to his face, 
How farest thou so staunchly like an ox, 
Whose feet the god compels to sacrifice ? ( 1298 > 

Cass. Sirs, 'tis too late ; escape is none for me. 

Chor. Howbeit the latest hath the gain in time. 

Cass. My day is come ; small profit is in flight. 

Chor. Yea, staunch indeed and patient is thy heart. 

Cass. Ah me, that sorry laud befits my plight. 

Chor. Yet, honour is death's comely recompense. 

Cass. Woe for thee, sire ! woe for thy nobly-born ! 

Chor. What fright is on thee ? Why recoilest thou ? 

Cass. Pah! 

Chor. Gramercy, what hath turned thy fancy sick ? 

Cass. There is a fume of bloodshed in the house. 

Chor. Nay, 'tis the savour of hearth-sacrifice. 

Cass. A ghastly vapour rank as from the tomb. 


Chor. In sooth, thy lips drop Syrian perfume here ! 

Cass. Enough ! In yon death-chamber I will wail 
Myself and Agamemnon. Farewell, life ! 
Ah, think not, sirs, I quake and quaver here 
As a bird starting at an empty bush ; 
But when another woman dies for me, 
And for a man ill-wed a man hath fallen, 
Bear me your witness in my grave ; I claim 
This service of your friendship ere I die. 

Chor. Oh pitiful ! Must thou foretell thy death ? 

Cass. I would fain speak once more, yea, cry my dirge 
To yonder sun, whose light hath passed for me, 
And pray of him that my red-handed foes, 
E'en for their easy slaughter of a slave 
May guerdon mine avenger ( 1324 > with their blood. 
Alas for man's estate, a limned sketch, 
That fades with fortune's smile and with her 


Is blotted out for ever ! So to live 
And so to end is pity, first and last. 


Worldly weal sufficeth never 
Men's desire : < 1332) albeit envy 
Points her finger, none forbiddeth, 
Crying " Enter not my halls." 
What if he, from Priam's fallen 
Town returning 
Home, a hero graced of Heaven, 
Dying to the dead shall render 
Blood for blood and death for death, 
Who that heareth will avow him 
Born to live and die unscathed ? 


Agamemnon (within) 

Help, help without ! Oh, I am hurt to death. 
Chor. Silence, who is stricken ? 'Twas a cry of 

mortal agony. 

Agam. Oh, I am hurt again, hurt unto death. 
Chor. 'Twas the King who groaned : methinks the 
bloody deed is even done. 

Nay, but give we one another counsel in 

our parlous case/ 1347 ) 
Chor. i. Sirs, I advise ye for my part to call 

A timely rescue hither from the town. 
Chor. 2. Not so ! In, in, I say, and with all speed 

Unmask this murder ere the sword be dry ! 
Chor. 3. I am thy seconder and cast my vote 

For doing ; 'tis no time for shy delay. 
Chor. 4. 'Tis treason's blazon threatening the burgh ; 

Ware, sirs ! The note of tyranny is struck. 
Chor. 5. We dally; their hands slumber not, who spurn 

The fair conceit of caution in the dust. 
Chor. 6. No happy cue of counsel prompts my tongue. 

'Tis for the doer to deliberate. 
Chor. 7. My judgment too is mute ; no wisardry 

Of speech is mine to raise the dead to life. 
Chor. 8. What, sirs, shall we live on to follow meek 

Behind these lewd defilers of the house ? 
Chor. 9. Better to perish than endure the shame. 

Death is more merciful than tyranny. Shall we indeed divine our lord fordone 

Upon this doleful witness of our ears ? 
Chor. ii. We talk in heat and ignorance withal ; 

There is a gulf 'twixt knowledge and surmise. 
Chor. 12. Sirs, 'tis resolved by plenary consent 

We learn what hath befallen Atreus' son. 

[CLYTEMNESTRA is discovered. 


Clyt. Now ( 1372) will I make no scruple to unsay 

The wordy lure, which I contrived for him. 
How else had I encompassed him, my foe, 
The feigned friend who was my foe, to raise 
Sheer toils of death he might not overleap ? 
Full many a year I bore upon my heart 
The gage he threw me long ago. And now 
'Tis done ! Here stand I, where I struck him 


I will not flinch from telling, how I wrought 
The doom he could not parry nor resist. 
First I impaled him with an endless coil, 
As 'twere a fishing-net, a deadly wealth 
Of raiment. Twice I smote him ; twice he 


And sank upon the spot. Then, as he lay, 
With a third blow I dedicated him 
To Death, to keep him safe among the dead. 
So brake his fretting heart ; but, gasping still, 
He dashed a sudden spray of blood upon me ; 
And I rejoiced in that dark gory dew, 
As the green corn rejoices, when it swells 
And burgeons in the welkin's wet embrace. 
Elders of Argos ! How it is, ye know ; 
I give you joy, and if no joy is yours, 
The vaunt is mine. Oh, were it meet to pour 
A brave libation on the corse, 'twere justly, 
Aye more than justly done. For he has filled 
His bowl brimful of curses and of crimes, 
And now returns to drain it in his house ! 
Chor. O shameless tongue ! To flout thy fallen 

I marvel at thy loud effrontery. 


Clyt. I am no shallow woman, whom ye mock. 
With unconfounded heart, albeit ye know, 
I speak ; and whether thou wilt praise or blame, 
'Tis one to me. Lo, my right arm hath wrought 
The handiwork of justice : he is dead, 
My husband, Agamemnon. He is dead ! 

Chor. Woman, what poison from earth's veins hast 
thou eaten or bane of the sea-brine hast drunk,( u08 ) 
that thou layest the people's curse as incense of wrath 
on thy head ? For thy hewing and thy hacking a hue 
of the burghers' hate will cast thee out/ 1411 ) 

Clyt. Now dealest thou to me an outlaw's doom, 
The city's hate, the people's ban ; but then 
Thou hadst no plea to stop his felon hand, 
Who slew his child, sweet offspring of my pain, 
To charm the Thracian gusts, and recked her 


As she had been a sheep, although his fields 
Teemed with their fleecy multitude. This man 
Behoved it not to harry from the land 
Attaint of murder foul ? Stern is thine ear 
And strict thine inquisition for my act. 
Rail on me as thou wilt ; 'tis a fair match. 
If thy hand be the stronger, I am set 
To thy command. If Heaven rules otherwise, 
I'll school thee to humility betimes. 

Chor. Thou art termagant and presumptuous of 
tongue, forasmuch as the bloody haviour of thy wit 
runneth to madness, and thine eyes are red, e'en as 
if his wounds did bleed upon thy brow. But blow 
for blow thou must render hereafter, disgraced and 


Clyt. Hark ye, I have an oath in Heaven, sealed 
'Fore Ate and Erinys in his blood, 
And witnessed by my daughter for his deed 
Of doom : no fear shall enter where my hope 
Is chambered, while Aegisthus keeps my hearth 
Aglow with loyal kindness as of yore. 
A buckler strong is he, to make me bold. 
There lies the spouse who wronged me, pam- 
pered pet 

Of his Chryseises at Troy ; and she, 
His slave, his soothsayer, his oracle, 
His darling mate, who shared his bed and bench 
Upon the decks, hath paid me scot with him. 
Lo, he hath his discharge ; she, like the swan, 
Hath wailed her song of death and slumbers 


Beside her fondling swain, to tender me 
More sweets and daintier for my honeymoon. 

Char. Oh that from yon bourn of sleep eternal might 
befall some death, not painful nor bedrid ; for that he, 
our kindly guardian, is stricken. Sore trouble had he 
for a wife's sake, and from a wife he hath the sword's 

Ah the tale of blood unreckoned, 

Ah the lives that Troy hath squandered, 

Witness Helena, for thee ! 

Behold thy trophy of blood ; from my lord's cruel 
hurt thou hast plucked this last blazon, for a quarry 
of quarrels in the house. (1461) 

Clyt. Stay thy fretful tongue ; invoke not 
Death upon thee. 
Cease thy rant of war and murder, 


Tell me not the Danaan death-roll, 
Nor recount the woe unsealed 
Wrought by Helen's naughtiness. 

Chor. Thou fiendful incubus, who hauntest our 
dwelling and either line of Tantalus, and gallest my 
heart with empery of viragoes twain ! Lo, she< 1473) 
flourished! her prize with a stately chant, like some 
curst raven perching on her carrion. 

Clyt. Now thy voice with right intention 
Calls to parley 

Our familiar < 1477) gorged and glutted ; 
Wombed of him, the wolf within us 
Battens on our sores, that issue 
Ever fresh in blood and bane. 

Chor. Welaway ! Zeus, who is paramount in 
cause and act, doth permit him. For what purpose 
of man availeth without Zeus ? Hath not all this a 
warrant of God ? (1488 > 

Oh my king, my king, tearfalling 

Pity loseth 

Heart and voice, while thou in yonder 

Spider's felon web art wasting 

To thy foul, ungodly death. 

Ah me for thy bed of villanage, smitten' and cleft 
with the double murd'rous blade (U96) in her despiteful 

Clyt. Ye aver, 'twas I who did it ; 
Nay, account not 
Me the spouse of Agamemnon. 
'Tis the fiend of old, who grimly 
Claimeth blood, a manly victim 


For the children slain at Atreus' 

Cruel banquet ; 

That Alastor's wraith am I. 

Chor. Who will bear thee witness that thou art 
innocent of this bloodshed ? Not so, albeit haply the 
ancient avenger doth abet thee ; seeing that red Ares 
shall ramp onward and sluice out the very heart of 
your race, till he hath purged yon charnel of baby gore. 

Oh my king, my king, tearfalling 

Pity loseth 

Heart and voice, while thou in yonder 

Spider's felon art wasting 

To thy foul, ungodly death. 

Ah me for thy bed of villanage, smitten and cleft with 
the double murd'rous blade in her despiteful hand. (1520 > 
Clyt. Set not he a hand despiteful 

'Gainst his household ? 

For the child I bore, his scion, 

For the bleeding of a mother's 

Heart he bled ; his vaunt in Hades 

Shall be humbled, now the deadly 

Count is settled 

By the tally of the sword/ 1529 ) 

Chor. Every sleight of thought hath failed me. Oh, 
whither shall I turn in this ruining of the house ? I 
dread the wrack and the hurtling of a bloody sleet, 
that falleth no more in drops ; for Justice is whetting 
her sword anew upon the hone for another deed of bale. 

Would, O Earth, thou hadst received me, 

Ere mine eyes beheld him truckling 

In yon silvered tumbrel-bath. (1540 > 

Who will bury, who lament him ? 


Darest thou, thy lord's assassin, 
Mock him with thy moan and render 
To the sullen shade a sorry 
Quittance of thy hardiness ? 

What earnest heart will be at pains to shower tears 
or laud on the tomb of my liege divine ? 

Clyt. Tell me of no mourner's mumming : 
Down I smote him, 
Down to earth, and down below it 
I will house him unlamented 
Save of one, his duteous daughter ; 
She will meet him 
With a kiss and hug of welcome 
At yon passage 
Of the rolling flood of sighs.< 1558 > 

Chor. Taunt answereth taunt ; but this knot of life 
is too hard for me. The poller shall be polled, the 
killer is forfeit : hath not Zeus written in the book of 
days that the doer shall suffer ? (1562) Oh that this seed 
of wrath were cast forth of your house ! Perdition is 
indeed set fast in your loins. 

Clyt. Yea, thy saws are soothly spoken ; 
With the demon 
I would seal my bond and suffer 
All this tyranny of troublous 
Fortune, if but your familiar 
Quit the Pleisthenids (1569) and henceforth 
Tear the bleeding heart of other 
Kindred. Look ye, but a little 
Share of wealth should quite suffice me, 
Might I banish 
Hate and murder from these halls. 



Aeg. Hail, merry morn, bright day of my redress ! 
This hour I will aver the gods on high 
Keep ward for mortals and regard the griefs 
Of earth, since I behold to my content 
There, deftly shrouded in Erinys' woof, 
This vile defaulter, who hath paid me scot 
For Atreus' handiwork. Mark well the gist. 
He, this man's father, ruling o'er your land, 
To bar the rival title, (1585) banned my sire 
Thyestes, his own brother ; who, outcast 
From home and city, yet returned again 
A suppliant for mercy at the hearth. 
The earnest of his miserable life 
He gained, and died not there, nor bled, by 


Of Atreus, on his father's homely floor. 
But he, the miscreant sire of this dead man, 
With kindness scant and full unkindly haste 
Made him good cheer, professing that he kept 
A feastful day, (1592) and to my father served 
His very children's flesh upon the board. 
High in his separate seat above, he broke 
Piecemeal a mess of toes and finger-tips 
Disguised ; my father straightway took and ate 
Unwitting rank perdition to the race, 
As thine eyes witness, with that food ; for lo ! 
Quick as the monstrous horror caught his sense, 
He spewed the gory feast and spurned the board 
And shrieked, impleading with its fatal crash 
The house of Pelops and the damned seed 
Of Pleisthenes. So v/as he doomed to fall ; 


And mark, the right to weave this bloody skein 
Was mine, since, to indemnify my sire 
For sorrow past, he drave me out with him 
And brethren twain,a babe in swaddling-clothes; 
And now I am a man, whom Justice reared 
And hath restored. Albeit a stranger, I 
Framed all the fiendish enginery ; mine 
The hand that griped him. Wherefore death 

were now 

A guerdon fair for me, since I have seen 
Him in the toils of Justice fast entrapped. 

Chor. Aegisthus, I abhor the tongue that mocks 
Affliction. 'Twas thy wilful doing killed 
This man, thou say'st it ; thine was all the craft 
That hatched this woful murder. Then beware ! 
Thy head shall not escape the righteous due 
Of stoning and the people's malison. 

A eg. Big words ! But from our bench of mastery 
We rule the ship, ye clamour from the thwarts 
Beneath. Discretion is a parlous cue, 
And irksome is her school for greybeard boys 
As thou art. Bonds and bitter famishing 
Lay e'en on aged wits a sovran spell 
Of wisard leechcraft. Hast not eyes to see ? 
Kick not to thy sore hurt against the goad. 

Chor. False housewife, who defilest house and bed, 
Thou, on the happy morrow of the war, 
Thou to inveigle our captain to this death ! 

Aeg. Sweet words and rife for thee with bitterness. 
Thou waggest not the like of Orpheus' tongue. 
His pleasant music led a charmed world. 
Thou, silly cur, whose yelping frets mine ears, 
Shalt tamely cower in thy leadman's leash. 


Chor. Thou'lt prince it here in Argos, fair my liege, 
Whose cunning had no second in thy sword 
To bring thy murderous device to act. 
Aeg. I warrant ye a woman's deft intrigue 
For that ; but I, his ancient enemy, 
Was suspect. With his pelf I will assay 
To rule the burghers, and my yoke shall lie 
Full heavy on the rank and restive colt : 
He may not prance in traces ; no, his mettle 
Shall starve and moulder in the dungeon's 


Chor. Why then recoiled thy coward heart, that she 
Must eke the valour which thou niggardest, 
Thy ready warrioress, whose breath defiles 
Our soil, our shrines. Mayhap Orestes lives : 
Ah, may he yet return by Fortune's boon, 
To set his bloody heel upon this pair ! 
Aeg. What ! art thou for deeds, not words ! Thy 

lesson thou shalt learn anon. 
Up, my trusty guardsmen, ready ! Now me- 

thinks your work is near. 
Chor. Up and ready, comrades : handle every man his 

hilted sword. 
Aeg. Hand on hilt, I will encounter ye, if need be, 

to the death. 
Chor. ' Death ! ' So be it as thou sayest ; lo, we 

take the clue of chance. 
Clyt. Nay, my well-beloved, let us cease from mis- 

chiefing awhile. 
For the crop of trouble we have harvested is 

large enough. 

Take we no more blood upon us ; further not 
our count of loss. 


Go thy way, and go, ye elders, to your houses. 

While 'tis time, 
Yield and parry fate ; 'twere better done to 

leave the rest undone. 
Lief and welcome were for us surcease of all 

this misery, 
Long as we have smarted, stricken by the cruel 

spur of Fate. 
I have spoken this my woman's counsel ; heed 

it whoso list. 

Aeg. Shall these flaunting tongues run rank and bur- 
geon to my sufferance ? 
Shall they riotously fling their ribald challenge 

in our teeth ? 
Rash and witless mutineers, who dare to flout 

my mastery ! 
Char. Craven wight, the men of Argos are not like to 

cringe to thee. 
Aeg. Ware, my hand shall overtake thee in the day 

of thine account. 
Chor. 'Twill o'erpass, if Heaven's favour hither guides 

Orestes 1 feet. 

Aeg. Well I mind me, men in exile cater for them- 
selves with hope. 
Chor. Fare thy best and batten on thy rape of justice, 

while thou may'st. 
Aeg. Be assured, for all this folly thou shalt make me 

rich amends. 
Chor. Bluster on and overcrow us, like a cock beside 

his mate. (167l) 
Clyt. Never heed, how loud soe'er and light their 

barking ; I and thou 

Will restore the comely order of the palace, 
where we rule. 




Hermes, who o'er thy father's empery ^ 
Keepest thy nether watch, be thou, I pray, 
My saviour and my champion in this bourn 
Of my long banishment. To thee, my sire, 
I cry a summons from this charnel mount W 
To hearken and to answer. [Lo, I bring] 
One lock, (6) my childhood's due to Inachus, 
And one < 8 ) to thee for tribute of my grief, 
Since for thy murdered corpse I made no moan 
Nor lifted hands (9) of mourning o'er thy bier. 

What do mine eyes behold ? A sombre show 
Of women going forth in sable weeds ! 
What woful hap shall I surmise ? Belike 
Some new affliction hath cast down the house. 
Or is it e'en to him, my sire, they bring 
Drink-offerings to exorcise the grave ? (15 > 
Tis shrewdly guessed ; for yonder goes, methinks, 
Electra, mine own sister, manifest 
In doleful teen. Now grant me to avenge 
My murdered father, Zeus ! Up ! of thy grace 
Entreat with me. Soft, Pylades, aside ! 
Mark we the import of their litany. 


Enter the CHORUS and ELECTRA. 


On a wanton errand (22) I fare from yon halls with 
pompous chalice and sharp twang of fists. A furlong 
of my nails' red prints hath fretted my face, (24) even as 
my heart doth batten on livelong sighs. The lappet W) 
of my bosom is rent and shred distressfully ; the flaxen 
tissue of my vesture is done to sackcloth for my woful 

Lo, there brake darkling on the privacy of my lady's 
chamber a nightshriek of terror, so that the hair of our 
flesh stood up ; for the spirit thereof was a soothsay < 32 > 
of wrath in the ear of the house. And the oraclers 
divined of her dream (37) and sealed us their rede, 
saying : " There is discontent in the grave and griev- 
ous malice against the slayer."" Therefore hath yon 
woman set me on this ungodly errand of her charity ; 
she enforceth me, O mother Earth, to fend this bane 
from her. But my lips are loath to utter the word:* 47 * 
for what shall redeem the blood, which she hath spilt 
on the ground ? Alas, my master's desolate hearth ! 
Alas for our house that is sunk to the dust ! A sullen 
murk of hatred hath gathered about it, since murder 
entered therein. The strong fence of majesty hath 
failed, which erst was impregnable and effectual in 
the ear of your people. They are fraught with fear ; 
prosperity is your worldling's god and more than god. 
Howbeit the eye of Justice striketh quick upon one in 
the daylight, another is reprieved from her pains until 
the gloaming, and of some she is even balked in the 
void of night. (65) The blood which Earth's pregnant 
lap hath sucked doth set unto vengeance (67) and findeth 


no pore. The scourge of Perdition tarrieth for the 
bloodguilty, till he goeth down with the sores of his 
leprosy upon him. Repair is none, if a man pollute 
the nuptial bower ;< 71 > neither shall the confluence 
of all waters avail to wash away the defilement of 
bloodied hands. 

Yet, since duress divine hath estranged my city and 
wasted my father's house and led me into captivity, it 
befitteth me to make terms of my dishonour with this 
tyranny for my life's space of dole/ 79) and withhold the 
bitter hate in my spirit ; but I weep beneath my cloak 
and hide an inly frost of sadness for my lord's despite- 
ful doom. 

Elect. Bondwomen, cumbered with our housewifery, 
Since ye are my companions to conduct 
This supplication, counsel me withal. 
What words were gracious and what orison 
Convenient, while I tender to my sire 
This duty of the chalice ? Shall I say, 
Tis but a love-exchange my mother sends 
To her dear husband by a daughter's hands ? 
I dare not. With this offering shall flow 
No honied lie upon my father's tomb. (92) 
Or with her chaplets (93) shall I furnish her 
Some common canting posy : " Flowers fair 
Deserve fair fruit"? Aye, bitter fruit of death !^ 95) 
Or, damning her with silence e'en as she 
Despited her dead lord, shall I outpour 
This juicy posset on the earth and go, 
As one who sweeps the offal from a house 
New-purged/ 98 ) with unconsenting eyes, and 

The urn behind my back ? Come, with your wit 


Abet ye my contrivance, O my friends 
And loyal to one hate, which dwells in us. 
Nor let that name of terror mew your hearts. 
O'er all the world, for freemen and for you, 
Poor chattels of the strong, fate's writ doth run. 
Speak, prithee, if thou knowest a better way. 

Chor. Lo, as thou wilt, I plight my tongue to truth 
Upon this altar, which entombs thy sire. (109) 

Elect. Then by thy troth I pray thee, ope thy mind. 

Chor. In the true name of kindness speak thy rote. 

Elect. Who answer to the name of kind and kin ? 

Chor. Thyself Yore all, and all Aegisthus 1 foes. 

Elect. Then I and thou are parties to my prayer. 

Chor. Take counsel of thy knowledge and thy heart. 

Elect. What other shall I number with our crew ? 

Chor. Own thou Orestes, whom his house disowns. 

Elect. Well said ! Thou hast admonished me aright. 

Chor. Then word the count of bloodshed thus and thus. 

Elect. I am thy novice ; rede me properly. 

Chor. Invoke thou the pursuer, god or man. 

Elect. Say, to what end ? To doom or to avenge ? 

Chor. To slay the slayer. Utter it outright. 

Elect. But is't a righteous prayer in Heaven's ear ? ( 121 > 

Chor. Tis righteous to reward a foe with ill.< 122 > 

Elect. Hermes, almighty herald of the dead 

And living, bruit my message in the grave ; 
Summon me spirits of the depth to hear 
Prayers of my piety. Yea, summon Earth 
Herself, who genders all things and is quick 
For ever with the germins ( 128 ) of her lap. 
Father, to thy mortality I pour 
This lustral draught ( 129 ) and cry : pity thy kin, 
Me and Orestes, and rekindle light 


In thine ancestral house. We are mere waifs, 
Our mother's merchandise, whom she hath sold 
To buy her fere and fellow-murderer, 
Aegisthus. I am but a bondswoman, 
Orestes outcast and disinherited, 
And they are revelling in harlot pride 
Upon thy handiwork. My father, hear 
This supplication : may Orestes come 
With vantage hither, and vouchsafe that I, 
E'en as my mother's heart and hands are foul, 
Be chaste and holy. Nor for us alone 
I pray. Oh challenge me thine enemies, 
Send thine avenger to requite thee, sire, 
And slay thy slayers : so I speak my ban 
'Twixt fair preamble and fair sequel/ 146 ^ Heaven 
And Earth and conquering Justice aid, and thou 
Unhoard thy favour unto us above. 
Come, crown ye this oblation that I shed, (150) 
And speed my prayer with wailing, as 'tis meet ; 
Uplift your paean < 151) and acclaim the dead. 

Chor. Seeing our chalice hath run, come, wash away 
the wicked soilure of it with pure purling of tears ; let 
them e'en go perish with our lord, where he lieth amort 
in the twilight of sorrow and joy/ 155) Hearken, O wor- 
shipful master, hear me from the dusk of thy spirit. 
Ototoi ! Ototoi ! Ah for a puissant warrior to deliver 
the house ; let him come forth as a war-god to the fray, 
poising the bended < 161) Scythian bow in his hands, or 
amid the mellay plying hard his clinched sword ! 

Elect. The earth hath quaffed our service to my sire. 

Hold ! Here is wonder ! Commune we of this. 
Chor. Speak on ! My heart is dancing with amaze. 


" Answer, O thou dead and blessed 


Elect. This curled lock I saw upon the tomb. 

Chor. Shorn of what man, or what deep-girdled < 168) 
maid ? 

Elect. Nay, 'tis no mystery beyond surmise. 

Chor. Then prithee let thy youth instruct mine eld/ 171 ) 

Elect. None but myself would cut the hair for him/ l72) 

Chor. Sooth, 'twas no duty of his felon kin. 

Elect. 'Tis of familiar feather, passing like 

Chor. Familiar, sayest thou ; but of what roost ? 

Elect. Our own ; it hath the semblance of our locks/ 176) 

Chor. Is it perchance Orestes 1 stealthy gift ? 

Elect. Tis very like his tresses, even his. 

Chor. How came he hither at his deadly risk ? 

Elect. Tis his love-favour sent (180) unto his sire. 

Chor. Be it as thou wilt, 'tis pitiful, if he 

Shall nevermore set foot upon this land. 

Elect. Ah me, the anxious sight ! A sickly sweat (183 > 
Searches my breast ; 'tis stricken with a smart 
Of stabbing steel, and from these droughty eyes 
Break bitter tears and spend their wasteful spray. 
This hair how can I deem that it belongs 
To any of the townsfolk ? Yet 'twas not 
His murderer, my mother, shore the tress 
For some unmotherly, ungodly spite 
Harboured against her children. Earnestly 
To credit nay, but 'tis a pleasant hope, 
Orestes of his own dear locks hath vowed 
This garnish. Would it were a messenger 
And had a comfortable voice, to speak 
To my distrained sense ! 'T would tell me plain 
To spurn the cheat of that accursed head, 
If it came thence ; but if it greeted me 
" Sister, 1 ' then, father, might thy children mourn 


As one and deck thy tomb and do thee grace. 
But the gods know, to them be our appeal 
In what a troublous sea our barque is tost. 
Oh might the weakly seed e'en now be spared, 
That yet shall wax unto a goodly stem ! 
Look ye, another token, (205) prints of feet 
Alike and shapen like to mine withal. 
Nay, 'tis a twofold imprint ; that the foot 
Of some companion of his journey, this 
Is his ; it tallies aptly with mine own 
In tracery of tendon and of heel. (209) 
My heart is throed and palsied utterly. 

Orest. Ask for success to come, but do the gods 
To wit, thy prayer is answered to the full. 

Elect. What present godsend wouWst thou have me 
own ? 

Orest. Thine eyes behold thy long-besought desire. 

Elect. For whom then, if thou knowest, went my cry ? 

Orest. I know, Orestes 1 name is all thy pride. 

Elect. Prithee, what boon have I besought and won ? 

Orest. Behold me, near to thee as I am dear. 

Elect. What, sir, thou weavest some deceit for me ? 

Orest. Then I am plotting to entrap myself. 

Elect. Nay, but thou wouldest mock at my distress. 

Orest. Why then, I mock myself; for mine is thine. 

Elect. Art thou Orestes, thou to whom I speak ? 

Orest. Sooth, thou art slow to know me, whom thou 

Yet, when thine eye but spied this mourning 


And scanned the tracing of my feet, anon 
Thy quick elated fancy flew to me. 
Look at this curl, the pattern of thy head, 


Thy very brother's set it whence 'twas shorn, 
And see this broidery , (231) thy handiwork, 
The threads thy batten pressed, the pictured 

chase/ 232 ) 

Possess thyself; be not distraught for joy. 
Remember all the malice of our kin. 

Elect. O precious charge ! Seed of thy father's house 
And saviour, whom we wept in hope, put forth 
Thy valour and redeem thine heritage. 
Sweet heart of hearts, who hast my fealty 
Fourfold ; for I must dub thee, daughter-like, 
My father and my mother ; (240) yea, to thee 
Belongs the kindness that was hers, till hate 
Exceeding turned the beam, and thine shall be 
The love that was my sister's, (242) till she bled 
Upon that ruthless altar, and thou art 
My brother proven true and worshipful. (243) 
May Victory and Justice and the grace 
Of Zeus, the third (245) and mightiest, champion 
thee ! 

Orest. Zeus ! Zeus ! Incline thine eyes, consider us. 
Behold this eagle's brood forlorn, whose sire 
A fell she-viper ( 249 > folded in her coils 
Of death ; his callow orphaned young are spent 
With pinching hunger, for their thews are weak 
To hale their father's quarry to the nest. 
So look upon us twain ; children are we, 
I and Electra at my side, outcast 
Together from one house and fatherless. 
Nay, if thou spoil this eyrie of our sire, 
Thy priest (255) of worth and lordly worshipper, 
What generous hand shall give thee holy cheer 
Like his ? Go, kill the eagle's race, thy signs 


Shall find no winged way to credent hearts ; (259) 
No, nor on feastful < 2G1) days shall ministry 
Of ours avail thee, if thou wither quite 
This strong imperial stock of thy domain. 
Tend, as thou can'st, and lift to high estate 
Our house that seemeth fallen in the dust. 

Chor. Children, dear children, silence ! as ye hope 

To save your fathers hearth lest eavesdroppers 
Blab all the secret to yon tyrant pair. 
Oh may I live to see them lying stark 
And wasting in the pitchy reek of fire/ 268 ) 

Orest. Ne'er will the puissant lord of oracles 

Fail me ; for in presageful wakings ( 27l > oft 
He bade me pass this hazard and foretold 
Plagues that should gather as a deadly frost < 273 > 
Upon my life-blood, if I reckoned not 
My father's debt upon their heads, in ire ( 275) 
For my disseising, till the score were cleared 
By death for death ; else should I make amends 
Through long distraint and loathly on my life 
And person. Loxias, whose word is light 
For mortal kind to stay Earth's malison, 
Spake of no salve for me/ 279) but blight that creeps 
Apace with cruel fangs upon the flesh, 
Gnawing the tissue, and white speckling hairs 
Along its leprous trail. Again, he cried, 
Again, the sprites of wrath should visit me, 
From father's blood begotten ; < 283) frenzy fierce 
And maniac alarms from out the night 
Wilder and vex the culprit as he stares 
Aghast on darkness visible, shafts that rain 
Darkling from hands infernal at the cry 
Of death unheeded in the kin ; anon 


They torture to the quick with brazen scourge 
And chase the lazar from his town ; no part 
Were his thenceforth in festal bowl or cup 
Of loving kinship/ 292 ) for the jealousy 
Of that dead sire unseen shall banish him 
From altar, house and hostelry ; at last, 
Forlorn of friends and honour, he shall die, 
A carcase stale and shrivelled to the core. 
Behoves me not to heed such oracling ? 
Yea, though 'twere false, the deed must yet be 


Desires full many sway me, the god's hest, 
Great sorrow for my father, and the dearth 
Of livelihood withal constraining me, 
That this my burgh, the glory of the world, 
Before whose high ambition Troy hath fallen, 
Shall cringe no more to women twain ; for he 
Is womanish/ 305 ) or let him dare the proof. 
Chor. Now by grace of Zeus (306 ) the righteous 
Cause ensuing, 

Mighty Fates, move towardly ! 
For the instant voice of Justice 
Tells her debtors doom : " Let hatred 
On the tongue of hate recoil ! 
Do and suffer." < 313 ) So from hoary 
Time the old refrain is echoed. 
" Blood for blood, and blow for blow. 1 " 

Orest. Thou spirit uncouth/ 315 ) by what hap ot 
word or act might I waft thee from afar a gleam to 
divide the shroud of darkness upon thy bed ? Albeit, 
my father, our laments are counted for grace and 
glory to the bygone heirs of Atreus. 

Chor. Nay, child, no ravening fangs of fire (324) may 


quell the haughtiness of the dead ; his wrath is dis- 
covered betimes. He openeth his ear to your crying 
and lo ! the misdoer is declared/ 328 ) An ample bruit 
of lamentation, which is the due of a sire and parent, 
maketh inquisition for guilt. 

Elect. List again, father, to our descant of tears ; 
'tis a threnody of thy children twain, chanting thee 
our worship by thy tomb. Suppliants are we and 
exiles withal awaiting at thy grave. Is not evil every 
way dispread ? Is not mischief upon us as a giant 
unthrown ! 

Chor. Even now, if God doth purpose, 

He will tune our tongues to brighter 
Strain ; the paean, and no deathful 
Dirge, shall ring a princely welcome 
At the tryst of loving hearts. (344) 

Orest. I would thou hadst proudly died, my father, 
by some Lycian spear on the field of Ilios ; "'twere 
tolerable for thy house, wert thou entombed in a 
massy pile beyond the sea, and hadst left glory in 
thy home and raised a sign upon the pathway of thy 
children^ life. 

Chor. Then had he been a familiar of his comrades 
who perished nobly, an eminent prince and august 
beneath the earth and a minister of the sovereigns 
infernal ; < 358) for in his lifetime he was a king even of 
them who are appointed unto royalty < 360) and em- 
powered to handle the staff of command. 

Elect. Nay, father, not thy death beneath the walls, 
nor a grave with the rest in Troia^s field of blood by 
the ford of Scamander : I would rather his slayers had 
been foredone by their own kindred, that the rumour 


of their death might have come as a tale from afar, or 
ever I knew this trouble. 

Chor. Child, 'tis well to prate of fortune 

More than golden, more than windfall 
Blown from lands beyond the North ! (373) 
Now the double scourge (375) is striking 
Loud and deep ! The buried champion 
Bides his hour to cope with hateful 
Tyrant hands unclean ; his children 
Have their vantage of the grave. 

Elect. That shaft from thy lips throughly pierceth 
his ear. Zeus ! Zeus ! Thou who sendest destruc- 
tion on mortal kind from the pit : upon froward and 
mischievous hands it waiteth betimes, yea, overpasseth 
not a parent. 

Chor. Vouchsafe me a full-breasted peal of triumph 
o'er the death-blow of fere and leman ! Why should 
I hide the thing that hovers withal in my thought ? 
For anger is blowing bitterly at my heart, and vengeful 
hate as a wind athwart the prow. 

Orest. Fie, fie upon Zeus the full-fraught (395 > god ! 
Will he never lift his hand and cleave their pates ? 
Shall not the land have her surety ? From the wrong- 
doers I claim amends. O Earth, hear this challenge, 
and ye potentates of Hell ! 

Chor. Nevertheless ^tis ruled, the gory 

Spilth upon the ground requireth 
Other blood ; the olden murder 
Calleth woe on woe to follow 
In Erinys' fatal train. 

Elect. How long, ye principalities of Hell, ye ghostly 
sprites of wrath (406) so puissant ? Behold and consider 


the remnant of Atreus' seed, how we are forlorn and 
disherited. Whither shall I turn, O Zeus ? 

Chor. My heartstrings tremble again and my bosom 
turneth to murk at the sound of your sighing. The 
burden of your voices for a while is a knell unto hope, 
but anon she beameth with a fair countenance, and I 
am stayed on courage. 

Orest. Surely now is a burden of bitterness upon my 
lips ; 'tis e'en a mother's cruelty that defieth charity, 
let her coax as she will. Oh, my soul is uncharitable 
and fierce as it had been wombed in a wolf. (422) 

Chor. Erewhile I beat an Arian (423) dirge for him, 
to a wailful drone as of the Kissian chantress. Ye 
might have seen us< 425) blood-boltered with the patter 
of blust'ring clenched hands, high, high uplifted, till 
my head groaned for the buffeting. 

Elect. Out on thee, thou mother unmerciful, thou 
fiend and heartless, who gavest him the tearless burial 
of a foe, a king without his citizens, a spouse un- 

Orest. A carrion king in good sooth, and with her 
carrion shall she render him quittance. Yea, father, 
Heaven and my arm shall answer for it. I had liefer 
die than let her live. 

Chor. Know this withal ; he was mangled, hands 
and feet/ 439 ) Even as she hath buried him, so she 
entreated him, purposing to make thy young life 
grievous as death. Thou hast heard all the shame 
and the pain of it. 

Elect. Ye mind me, how they murdered him anew ; 
and I was thrust away, scouted as a vile thing, hutched 
in my chamber like a mischievous dog. My tears 
fell lightly indeed, and all my laughter was solitary 


moaning. Brother/ 450 ) indite that which I tell thee 
in thy thought. 

Char. Yea, indite it, but keep the calm pacing of 
thy wit and the bore of this tale in thine ears. Temper 
thyself to prove the sequel of that thou hast heard ; it 
behoveth thee to strike with a heart of steel. 

Orest. Father, I adjure thee, succour thy kin. 

Elect. Oh list to the burden of my tears. 

Chor. All we arrayed cry out this alarm to thee : 
obey, come forth into the light, succour us against our 

Orest. Our war-god shall war on them, and our 
right shall implead them. 

Elect. Beware, O ye gods, do utter justice upon 

Chor. A horrible quaking of Hell is about me ; 
'tis e'en the footfall of olden doom that tarrieth not 
at the summons of your prayer. 

Tis Perdition handselling a scourge, that shall beat 
hideous time to the bloody travail of our house. Ah, 
what shall comfort her mournful groaning or assuage 
her throes ? 

She hath one salve to lay upon her wounds : (471 > 
herself of her own instancy must she wage the feud 
of blood. In the name of the gods infernal is this 

Answer, O thou dead and blessed. 
Tis thy children's invocation ; 
Champion them to victory . (478) 
Orest. Father, dethroned by an unkingly death, 
Vouchsafe that I win back thy regency. 
Elect. Deny me not, my father, mightily 

To snare Aegisthus and escape his toils. 


Orest. Then would the folk appoint thee all thy due 
Of stately feasts ; else will thy grave be cold 
Mid the fat reek of offer ings (485) through the land. 

Elect. And I will bring thee of my heritage, 

Wed from thy house, my nuptial chalice full, (487) 
And render chiefest homage to thy tomb. 

Orest. O Earth, release my champion for the fray. 

Elect. Yea, send him bright and hale, Persephone. 

Orest. Bethink thee, father, of the murderous bath. 

Elect. And of the net's new-fangled bravery/ 492 ) 

Orest. They gyved thee, father, in strange manacles. 

Elect. They mocked thee with a bridal veil^ 494) of death. 

Orest. Dost waken, father, at our bitter cry ? 

Elect. And boldest thy beloved head alert ? 

Orest. Send Justice armed to combat for thy kin, 
Or set me back to grapple with thy foes, (498) 
If thou wilt take thy fair reprise on them. 

Elect. Sire, once again I call thee to behold 

Us, nestlings of thine eyrie, at thy grave. 
Pity the treasure of thy very loins, 
Thy boy (502) and girl withal. Oh wipe not out 
The seed of Pelops. So, albeit dead, 
Thou art alive. For children are the voice 
And memory of the dead, (505) the floats that hold 
The trawl and keep the flaxen ravel safe 
Above the deep. Give ear ! We make this plaint 
For thee ; to grant our prayer is thy redress. 

Chor. Now hath your long-drawn rote, to my content, 
Atoned his dumb, despiteful burial. 
But since thy heart is straitly set to act, 
Up ! Hazard thou thy fortune on the deed. 

Orest. I will ; but 'tis no errant questioning, 

What set her on this business ? What imports 


This skeleton of service to the slain r 

It beats surmise. With this poor charity 

They thought to comfort dull obstruction/ 517 ) 


Men may not count the price of sin in gifts. 
" 'Tis wasted labour to outpour thine all 
'Gainst only blood : " so runs the parable. 
I would fain hear thy story, if thou knowest. 

Chor. I saw and know, my son. Her godless heart 
Was wakened by a ghastly wraith of night ; 
So, for her peace, she sent this offering/ 525 ) 

Orest. What was her dream ? Hast heard ? Can'st 
tell it clear ? 

Chor. She saith, 'twas of a serpent that she bare. 

Orest. Quick, to the sum and sequel of thy tale ! 

Chor. She swathed and bedded him like any babe. 

Orest. What feeding craved her brutish imp anon ? 

Chor. She gave him suck full kindly ; so she dreamed. 

Orest. And wounded not the loathly thing her pap ? 

Chor. Yes, in the milk he drew were gouts of blood. 

Orest. No mirage was her vision, but a man. 

Chor. She woke from slumber quaking with a cry, 
Whereat the blindfold lights began to blink 
And flare in every brasier ; then forthwith (538) 
My lady sent to pour unto the dead 
This simpling (539) that she fancied for her pain. 

Orest. Lo now, to Earth and to my father's tomb 
I pray, her dream be all fulfilled in me. 
It tallies aptly, if I read it true ; 
Seeing this snake, cast of one womb with me, 
Slipped me his coils within the swaddling-clothes, 
And curdled my sweet mother's milk with blood, 
'Twas her own doom she shrieked in sick amaze, 



A presage of her murder violent 

And monstrous as the thing she nursed ; for I, 

I am that deadly dragon of her dream. 

No otherwise, I trow, thou'lt augur me. 

Chor. God grant ! But, as thou lovest us, advise 
What we and she shall do or leave undone. 

Orest. I rede ye simply ; enter thou within, 

And prithee cloak this plot of my device. 

So may our craft with murderous recoil 

O'ertake the traitorous pair, who slew our prince, 

And hoist them in one noose. Such was the word 

Of Loxias, our lord of wisardry, 

And as Apollo bodeth, it shall be. 

I will present me at the palace-gate < 561) 

In traveller's proper equipage, as one 

Upon the highway claiming hostelry, 

Or spear-friend < 562) if ye will, with Pylades. 

We will essay to utter, I and he, 

Parnassus' highland speech/ 564 ^ tuning our 


To chime in Phocian accent ; if it hap, 
Anent this madding trouble in the house, 
No porter but will turn a sullen face, 
We will e'en linger there till passers-by 
Make sinister surmise and cry, " Go to ! 
Why doth Aegisthus, if he knows, nor fares 
Abroad, deny this suppliant at his door ? " 
But if I pass the threshold of yon court 
And cope him on my father's seat, or he 
Enter anon and front me, ere he asks 
" Whence comes this stranger ? " yea, before 

he lifts 
And drops (I warrant ye) his felon eyes (674 > 


This nimble blade shall pen and pounce him dead. 
So shall Erinys quaff her fill of death 
E'en to the third outpouring, ( 578) blood unblent. 
Now keep thou ( 579 > sentry in the house within, 
That our contrivance may run pat ; and you 
I counsel, charily withhold your voice ; 
Discreetly time your silence and your speech. 
Enough ! Let him (583) watch o'er me in the lists, 
Of whom my sword shall challenge victory. 


The earth is full of troublesome things and terrible, 
that she hath gendered, and the sea gathereth abund- 
ance of noisome beasts within her arms ; in the 
heights of the firmament go fires that move unto- 
wardly ; (589) the fowls of the air and the cattle can 
tell, when the whirlwinds cast their rage abroad. 
But who can declare the fierce daring of a man, (595) 
and the fell lusts of fiendly women, which harbour 
with madness ? Love, that is outrageous in the female 
kind, turneth them as brutes to strange consortings.^ 601 ) 

Let every one ponder, who is not silly of heart, how 
the daughter of Thestius (605) miserably slew her child 
with a fiery device : she burned up the red brand, 
wherewith he waxed from his first crying when he 
came forth of the womb, and it continued with the 
count of his lifetime until his destined day. A name 
abhorred in story hath she withal, who did Nisus to 
death by means of his enemy, even Scylla the bloody 
and dog-hearted ; all for a Cretan necklace of wrought 
gold, wherewith Minos beguiled her, (618) she spoiled him, 
her fere, of the imperishable lock of his head, when 


he was drowsing unwarily, and Hermes overtook 
him/ 622 ) 

""Tis a grim tale and heinous that I essay to sum ; 
albeit "'twere inconvenient, if thou wouldest rehearse 
in the light that loathly wedding, which shameth our 
house, to magnify another's unwifely craft and spite 
against a manly warrior, and the paling of his pride, 
and the hearth that waxed cold, and the sceptre that 
is weak and womanish/ 630 ) But the chiefest of sins is 
that whereof the bruit hath gone forth from Lemnus, 
even a howling " woe worth the day ! " If aught 
horrible be done, "'tis likened to Lemnian murdering/ 634 ) 
Heaven's ban is upon the bloodguilty kindreds of 
earth. They are disherited and vanish utterly ; for 
that which God hath rejected no man honoureth. 
Are not mine instances worthily indited every one ? 

A sharp sword in the hand of Justice is set against 
the heart, and throughly doth it wound/ 639 ) For un- 
righteousness shall rightfully fall in time, when it is 
not trodden under foot but transgresseth the holiness 
of Zeus. Justice hath an anvil fixed, whereon Fate/ 647 ) 
being her armourer, forgeth a good sword betimes : 
then cometh the brooding Erinys of mighty name, 
and layeth the imp of olden bloodshed at the door of 
the house to discharge it of defilement at last. 


Orest. Ho, lad ! A summons from the courtyard 

gate ! < 653 ) 

What ho within ! What ho within, I say ! 
Once more I challenge lord Aegisthus 1 house 
To open in the name of hospitage. 


Serv. Enough ! I hear. Whence art thou ? Of 
what land ? 

Orest. Acquaint him, whosoever is master here, 
That I await with tidings of import ; 
And hasten, for Nights dusky chariot (660) 
Hies up ; "'twere time a stranger on his road 
Slipped anchor in some public hostel ry. (662) 
Summon your lady forth, if one hath charge 
And power in the palace ; or your lord 
Were fitter. Where men parley, bashfulness 
Darkens not conversation. Man to man 
Speaks out the pith and purport of his tale. 


Clyt. Bespeak ye, Sirs, I pray, of this our house 
Whatever is meet and serviceable ; beds 
Are yours, warm baths to ease your weariness, 
And soothest welcome in our eyes/ 671) If aught 
More close is to transact, I promise ye 
It shall concern my manly counsellor. 

Orest. I am a Daulian, bound on pilgrimage 
From Phocis unto Argos, burdening 
None other with my pack ; as thence I fared 
Afoot, the wayworn yokel whom thou see^st, 
A stranger all unknown encountered me, 
One Strophius, a Phocian, as I learned 
In colloquy : we communed of our ways, 
And he adjured me : " Seeing, sir, thy road 
Is e'en to Argos, fail not to report, 
Orestes (note it well) is dead ; convey 
His kinsmen's charges, whether they elect 
To fetch him thence or leave him in the tomb, 


A homeless alien evermore ; for now, 

Poor wight ! his dirge is done, his dust is pent 

Within its brazen casket." Lo, thou hast 

My tidings. If ye be his lordly kin, 

I wot not, but 'tis meet his parents know. 

Clyt. Ah what a fall is here ! Undone ! Undone ! 
Thou curse, whose griping hold is on this house, 
How dost thou sight our absent ones afar 
In their asylum with thy bow alert 
And deadly ! Woe is me ! Bereft and bare ! 
Now, when Orestes walked so warily, 
And kept his feet without the miry pit, 
That hope which housed with us and sobered still 
Thy merry revel ah ! record it blank. 

Orest. Fain would I win acquaintance with my host 
And wealthy entertainment for the meed 
Of goodly tidings. What is lovelier 
Than hospitable kindness ? (703) Yet methought 
I were a sinner to my heart confessed, 
If I accomplished not this friendly charge 
For all my promise and your courtesy. 

Clyt. Nay, thou shalt forfeit naught of thy desert, 

Nor have worse welcome of the house ; this news 
Must e^en have sped with other visitors. 
Howbeit, sirs, "'tis time ye were refreshed 
From your day's rote of travel, as is due. 
I charge thee, (712) as thou art accountable, 
To see him and this other be he friend 
Or page ( 713) in our guest-chamber well bested, 
And free of this our homely hostelry. 
For that which hath befallen, I will confer 
And counsel with the master of this place, 
Whose loving-kindness shall console my loss. 



When shall we, my sister captives, 
For Orestes 

Lift a mighty shout triumphant ? 
Hallowed canopy of earth, thou holy 
Pile,< 722 > that hidest here the royal 
Corse of him, our navy's hero, 
Lo ! 'tis e'en the hour for guileful 
Suasion hand in hand with Hermes 
From the nether night patrolling 
To direct the fray of swords. 

[Enter the NURSE.] 

Mischief, methinks, hath passed the threshold. 


There goes Orestes' nurse, in tears withal. 
Whither afoot, Cilissa,< 732) through the gate, 
With grief, an unpaid lackey, at thy heels ? 
Nurse. I have an instant errand from the queen. 

She would e'en clap Aegisthus on her guests 
To question stoutly, as a man with men, 
Of their report. All glum, when we were by, 
She mourned and mowed with laughter in her 


That gloated for this message from abroad 
Of import all too true ; in sooth it nicked 
Her expectation and announced a world 
Of teen unto this house. And yonder wight, 
How will the hearsay flush and gladden him ! 
Ah me ! How oft soe'er my breast was wrung 
For all the ills of yore, the grievous coil, 
That huddled long on Atreus' heritage, 


Yet ne'er was loss so ruinous ; the rest 

With a stiff heart I suffered, but my soul's 

One dear concern, Orestes, mine own charge, (749) 

My nursling from the womb : a restless brat 

And shrill o' nights ! Oh, 'twas a fretful time, 

And profit none I had of it. A babe 

To tend in swaddling-clothes is coy, forsooth, 

Like any kidling, for he hath no tongue 

To blab of thirst or hunger. If he itch 

To puke, the babish belly waits no help. 

How oft I prophesied amiss, how oft 

To make amends I washed his clouts again. 

Yea, since I took the boy, his father's trust, 

As feeder and as fuller I was bound 

To double prenticeship. But now alack ! 

They tell me he is perished, and I go 

To fetch yon foul destroyer of the house, 

And speak my pleasant tidings in his ear. 

Char. With what appointment would she have him 
come ? 

Nurse. Appointment, sayest thou ? I take thee not. 

Chor. Faring alone, or with his soldiery ? 

Nurse. She bids him bring a retinue of spears. 

Chor. Then, as we hate our master, waive that hest, 
But do her errand blithely ; hint no fear. 
Charge him to come him only with all 

Dark tales are best deciphered in the dark/ 773 ) 

Nurse. What ! Is thy heart so light at this report ? 

Chor. Nay but if Zeus shall put our woe to flight ? 

Nurse. Not so ! Orestes, our last hope, is gone. 

Chor. 'Tis an untimely soothsay. Wait and see. 

Nurse. Hast thou some knowledge counter to the tale ? 


Char. Go, quit thee of thy message and enact 

My bidding. Heaven shall fulfil the rest. 
Nurse. Good ! I will go my way and heed thy word. 
Chor. May it end well, and God be bountiful ! 


Grant now my entreaty, O Zeus, lord god of 
Olympus, vouchsafe us present success and true, even 
as our desire is pure and discreet. The words of my 
mouth are lawful altogether ; Zeus, be thou his keeper. 
Lo, he is within their gates ! Advance him before 
his foes, O Zeus; for, if thou exalt and strengthen 
him, he shall make thee a willing recompense, two- 
fold, yea threefold. Stay thou the child of thy 
beloved, this fatherless colt who draweth the yoke 
of his affliction, that his running be not out of time. 
Oh may we behold him perfect in the race, and his 
steps beautiful as music, (797) when he enlargeth them 
upon the ground ! 

Hear, ye kindly gods, whose sanctuary is deep 
within the wealthy chamber/ 801 ) Up ! Redeem ye 
the former bloodshedding with fresh revenges. . . . 
[Then] may murder wax old and no more beget his 
kind in this abode. And thou, who dwellest in the 
ample cave's mouth, thy goodly stead, (806) grant that 
the house of our prince may look up and put off her 
gloomy veiH 811 * and behold him brightly as a lover 
with eyes of liberty. May the son of Maia graciously 
abet him, and blow full as a strong wind to further 
his doing thoroughly. He shall discover the blind 
ways, (815) when he willeth. His speech is unseaich- 
able ; he compasseth his face with darkness in the 
night, neither standeth he any more to view by day. 


Now ensueth the hour, when the women shall utter 
their shrilling peal fair-set for the deliverance of the 
house, and a tuneful chime of mourning (823) therewith : 
'tis well with the city ; (824 > for us, verily, for us 'tis 
rich profit, and for my friends perdition is o'erpast. 
Therefore fear thou not, when it befalleth thee to 
act : if she cry unto thee, " O my child," utter the 
knell of thy father's name and wind up this grievous, 
deadly skein. Take the heart of Perseus < 831) to en- 
courage thee in the cause of thy kin below and of 
them upon the earth ; yea, hew down that imp of 
murder, spring upon him and enjoy thy fierce wrath, 
when thou makest a horror of blood in the house. 


Aeg. A rumour of strange news hath sped my steps 
Here on a summons ; 'tis some travellers'" tale 
Of import all unlovely. They aver 
Orestes' death : a parlous load, in sooth, 
To foist upon our galled and bloodied house, 
Whose wounds are open yet and festering. 
Am I to deem it quick and waking truth, 
Or some mere waif of womanish alarm 
Blown in the air and dead as soon as born ? 
Can'st give me rational report of it ? 

Chor. We have heard somewhat, but go in thyself, 
Ask of the strangers. A refurbished tale 
Is nothing ; cope the informant face to face. 

Aeg. I will confront and question him anew, 
If he were very witness of the death, 
Or doth but voice some indistinct report. 
I trow, he will not hood my clear-eyed wit. 




Zeus, with what appeal or burden 

Meet of prayer ( 856 > shall I approach thee ? 

Ah, what faithful 

Words and fair shall win to thee ? 

Now the deadly blade, befouled 

Still with lordly blood, will shatter, 

Yea, dethrone in utter ruin 

Agamemnon's house for aye ; 

Or our godly champion, kindling 

For the burghers' rule of freedom 

Bonfire light, shall gain his fathers' 

Ample wealth. He goeth listed 

Sole against the twain. The final (866) 

Bout, Orestes, shall be thine ! 

Aegisthus (within) 

Oh ! Woe's me ! 

Chor. List, oh list ! How goeth it ? What doom is 
for the house ? 

Hush ! Stand apart, (872 > that we be not suspect 

On this dark count, and wait upon the deed. 

Belike, the fray is ended even now. 

Enter a SERVANT. 

Set: Help ! Murder ! Here's your master hurt to 


Murder I cry again, and yet again ! 
Aegisthus dead ! Nay, open, open quick ! 
Back with the bolt, unbar the women's door. (878) 
Up ! Who's alive there ? Help ! But, save 
the mark, 


Alive ye needs must be to help the dead ! 

What ho ! 

I waste my strength on sluggards drowsed and 


Why conies not Clytemnestra ? Ware ! Or soon 
Justice shall have her head upon the block. 


Clyt. What wouWst thou, so alarming all the house ? 
Ser. The dead hath killed the living ; ask no more. 
Clyt. Ah me, I understand thy riddling saw 

Too well ; "'tis craft for craft, and death for death. 

Where is the murd'rous axe ? ^ 889) Quick ! Give 
it here. 

Is it defeat or victory ? I will know. 

Yea, here and now mine agony shall end. 
Orest. Hold ! Thou art tracked .< 892 > See, I have done 

with him. 
Clyt. Woe's me ! Aegisthus dead ! My lord ! My 

love ! 
Orest. Lovers, forsooth ! One tomb shall be your bed 

For aye, and death shall hold thee true to him. 
Clyt. Ah dear my child, forbear ! Pity this breast, (897) 

Where thou wast wont to slumber, and to suck 

With full-fed drowsy lips thy mother's milk. 
Orest. My mother ! Shall I spare her, Pylades ? ( 899) 
Pyla. Wilt thou abjure half Loxias" 1 behest, 

The word of Pytho, and thy sacred troth ? 

Hold all the world thy foe rather than Heaven. 
Orest. So be it ! Thy worthy counsel shall prevail. 

Come, I will slay thee yonder at his side, (904) 

For whom thou didst despise my father ; die 


And sleep with him in death, who lived to turn 
Thine honest love and duty into hate. 

Clyt. I nursed thee, and would pass with thee to eld. (908 > 

Orest. Thou slewest my sire and shalt thou dwell with 
me ? 

Clyt. My child, 'twas Fate consented to the deed. 

Orest. The self-same Fate doth now ordain thy death. 

Clyt. Reckest not, O my child, a mother's curse ? 

Orest. A mother, who didst cast me out forlorn ! 

Clyt. Thou wert no outcast in a friendly house. 

Orest. Me, me no slave thou soldest for a price. 

Clyt. I sold thy birthright ! For what recompense ? 

Orest. I am ashamed to tell thee of thy shame. 

Clyt. Nay, tell thy father's wantonness withal. (918) 

Orest. The housewife may not blame her working mate. 

Clyt. A woman, child, is ill divorced from men. 

Orest. And housewives starve without the husband's 

Clyt. Thy hand against thy mother, O my child ? 

Orest. I shall not slay thee ; thou wilt slay thyself. 

Clyt. Beware the hounds that venge a mother's blood. 

Orest. Aye, and a sire's. How scape I, sparing thee ? 

Clyt. Deaf as the tomb ! Dead to my dying plaint ! (926) 

Orest. My father's deadly doom prescribes thine own. 

Clyt. The snake ! Behold my nursling ! Woe is me ! 

Orest. Thy fearful dream was all oracular. 

Yea, die the death ; thy sin hath found thee out. 


Chor. Woful adieu to them, ill-fated pair ! 

But since Orestes' suffering hath coped 
This cruel tale of bloodshed, 'tis enough. 
The light (934) hath not clean perished from your 



Even as the heavy doom of Justice came at last on 
Priamos and his children, so came this lion pair, these 
two imps of war, into Agamemnon's halls : our outcast 
pilgrim hath sped forthright upon his heavenly errand, 
ensuing Pytho's careful hest. Sing and triumph, (942) 
for that our lordly house is restored from cumber and 
wasteful scath ; with yon defilers twain her ashen 
plight hath past. 

Another came withal, who hath sleights of com- 
bat < 947 > and vengeful wiles at heart ; but she who 
upheld the fighter's arm and breathed her deadly wrath 
on the foe was Dike,* 951 ) soothly named of men, for 
she is the true maid of Zeus. She is belated and halt, 
but Loxias with his shrill call from out the mighty 
cavern in his demesne of Parnassus hath fetched her 
in righteous guile ; for his godlihead is let perforce 
from serving iniquity, and 'tis meet to regard the 
empery of the heavens. Lo, the dayspring is mani- 
fest ! Nay, lift up (962) thy head, O house of our 
bondage, that art rid of thy heavy curb ; full long 
hast thou lain in the dust. . . . For soon shall Time 
effectual enter our doorway, when he hath throughly 
purged and swept the hearth of bane and stain. And 
for us sojourners of your dwelling the die of her 
fortune ( 969) shall fall fair again. Lo, the dayspring 
is manifest ! 


Orest. See there my father's sceptred murderers 
And partners in the ravin of his house. 
Who looks may read their story ; lovers yet, 
And wedded as they sat in majesty 


Together, faithful to their plighted vow ; 
Yea, death hath held them doubly to their bond/ 979 ) 
And ye, whose ears must hear this woe, behold 
The snare, which coiled about my wretched sire, 
Tangled and gyved him, hand and foot : < 982) for 


Though I should speak it fair, what foulest name 
Were apt ? A hunter's gin ? A deadly pall 
That hearsed him, head and feet, within the bath? 
A trawl r A stake-net ? Or a deadly train 
Of shackles ? Sooth, some thievish knave pro- 

Some cutpurse of the streets or kidnapper 
Of travelling folk might own it ; busy hands 
Were his and hot his murd'rous heart, who plied 
A tool so deft. Stand round, (991) unfold this thing, 
Wherein your lord was pent ; display it full 
Before the sire, not mine, but Helios, 
Whose eye is bent on us, that he may see 
Her impure handiwork and testify 
In the hour of judgment/ 995 ' that the right was 


To prosecute my mother unto death. 
I reck not of Aegisthus and his life. 
He hath the adulterer's lawful doom ; ("^ but she, 
Who set this hellish snare against her lord 
And parent of the burden of her womb, 
Once loved and now his bloody foe confessed, 
Lamprey or viper be she, (1002) deem ye not 
That venomous heart of hatred breathed a taint 
Full fraught of hardy malice unabashed ? 
Rather had I go childless to the grave, 
If Heaven will, than house with such a mate. 



Ah the rueful work ! By loathly 
Death foredone, alas ! thou leavest 
Him to trouble evergreen. 

Orest. Wrought she the deed, or not ? This damned 


Keeps the red imprint of Aegisthus 1 sword/ 1011 ) 
A dye of blood that with the years hath marred 
Each strand of gorgeous tissue. Here behold 
My witness ; now and here, not from afar, 
He hath my laud and moan/ 1014 ) The pity of it, 
Thou dumb unfeeling web, that I must do 
And suffer with my suffering race, to win 
Pollution for my crown of victory. 


Roadway none hath life for mortals 
Clear of scath, but taketh ready 
Toll of troubles evermore. 

Orest. Hear ! I know not the end ; I am as one, 

Whose horses whirl his car without the course, (1022) 

Swept helpless in the tumult of my brain. 

There is some terror at my heart, that hums 

A jangling strain, a fierce delirious reel. 

But unto you, who love me, I avouch 

And notify, while yet I have my sense, 

I rightly did to death this murderer, 

This mother whom my father's blood defiled, 

This recreant to Heaven. I aver 

One pregnant motive (1029) of my daring. He, 

The holy voice of Pytho, Loxias, 


Charged me to follow him and go' exempt 

From baneful consequence ; but if I failed 

Nay, I forbear to tell the penalties ; 

No arrows of the tongue will reach that tale 

Of agony. Behold me now arrayed 

With olive-branch and chaplet, (1035) to draw 


Earthfs hallowed navel and the deathless fire < 1037 ) 
That shines, they tell, for ever at the feet 
Of Loxias, self-banished (1038) on the count 
Of kindred blood ; the lord oracular 
Bade me to sue unto no hearth but his. 
Witness the men of Argos, one and all, 
In aftertime, how came this woe to pass. 
Outlawed and outcast from your land I flee, 
And dead or living leave ye this report. 
Chor. Nay, voice no boding ; < 1W5) burden not thy 


With baleful utterance : for thou hast won. 
See this twy-headed snake not scotched, but 


Yea, thy swift sword hath set all Argos free. 
Orest. Hold ! 

Bondwomen, look ! They are like Gorgons, 


In dusky vesture, and their locks astir 
With tangled snakes ! I dare abide no more. 
Chor. What madding wraiths are these, child of thy 

Well-loved ? Thine is the vantage. Stay thy 

Orest. These are no horrors of mere fantasy. 

I know, they are my mother's hounds of wrath. 



Chor. The blood is fresh upon thy hands ; for this, 

Belike, thy troubled sense is wildering. 
Orest. Help, lord Apollo, help ! They swarm on me 

With loathly eyes, that void a rheum of blood. 
Chor. One shrift thou hast ; 'tis Loxias, whose touch 

Shall thoroughly acquit thee from thy pains. 
Orest. Ye see them not, but lo ! they stare on me. 

Ah, they will hunt me down ! Away ! Away ! 

Chor. May fortune go with thee, and grace divine 

Protect and guide thee timely to the end ! 


Lo, in might of birth gigantic (1067) 

Storms have gathered 

Thrice upon the royal halls. 

With those murdered babes the cruel 

Tale was opened ; 

Then Achaea^s royal captain 

Bled and weltered 

In the deadly bath ; and be it 

Turn of saviour now or death-blow, 

Who shall answer ? 

Where shall ruin end or whither 

Surge before its rage be spent ? 


, fir ; 

_- >'*,!: 

' 1 A 




First to the gods I pray, entitling chief 
Gaia, the primal prophet ; Themis next, 
Her daughter < 3 > and successor, as one tale 
Avers, in this her seat oracular. 
With her good will and in despite of none, 
Phoebe, (7) another Titan child of Earth, 
Presiding in her turn, bequeathed the place, 
E'en as a natal gift, to Phoebus, heir 
Of that his grandam's name. He straight for- 

The lake < 9) and scars of Delos, taking ship 
For Pallas' (10) busy haven, from whose shore 
As forth he fared to claim his high abode 
On our Parnassus, lo ! Hephaestus 1 sons (13) 
Went pioneering, yea, with homage rare 
Escorted him and made a pleasant land, (u) 
Where wilderness had been. Our governor, 
Delphus, (16) with all the people, magnified 
His coming, and he sits in order fourth, 
Where Zeus enthroned him seer and made his 


Instinct with lore divine ; for Loxias 
Is but interpreter of Zeus his sire. 


To all these gods I tender first their due 
Of prayer. And next in honour I bespeak 
Pallas Pronaia < 21) chiefly ; then, the nymphs 
Who dally with unearthly visitants 
In yon Corycian grotto/ 23) haunt of birds. 
Homage withal to Bromius/' 24) no more 
A stranger here, since his fair chivalry 
Followed their god's command and Pentheus 


In toils of his contriving, like a hare. (26 > 
All hail to Pleistus 1 fount < 27 > and hail to thee, 
Poseidon, in thy power, and Zeus, supreme, 
Effectual. (2S) This said, I mount my chair ( 29 > 
Of prophecy ; and may the gods vouchsafe 
Communion yet more blest than heretofore. 
Whate'er Hellenic deputies await, 
Let them cast lots for entry ; (32) so 'tis ruled, 
And Heaven in such wise guides mine oracling. 

Oh horrible to tell, and horrible 
Unto mine eyes the sight that drave me back 
From Loxias' abode with heavy feet 
And nerveless ; for my legs lacked strength to 


And borrowed of my hands ! A crone (38) afraid 
Is but a babe uncradled ! As I stepped 
Within the festooned shrine/ 39) I saw a wretch 
Unhallowed, crouching at the omphalos, (40) 
A suppliant unshrived ; he holds a sword, 
That reeks of murder in his bloodied hands. 
Therewith (so much mine eyesight shall avouch) 
A thickset wand of olive, chastely girt 
With ample garlanding of sheeny wool. 
But couched upon the seats affronting him 


Slumbers a troop of monsters womanish, 
Yet women are they not, but Gorgons (48) no, 
Nor yet to Gorgons will I liken them. 
Such figures limned (50) I have seen, in act 
To rifle Phineus"* board ; howbeit these 
Are wingless < 51) darksome sprites of loathly mien 
From head to foot ; their nostrils 1 drowsy breath 
Is mischievous (53) and rank, a hideous rheum 
Drips from their eyes, (54) their raiment is unmeet 
For holy images (55) or any haunt 
Of men. What race begat this company, 
What motherland hath nursed them and avers 
Herself unscathed of her brood, nor rues 
Her wasted pains, I know not, nor mine eyes 
Have seen. Enough ! Our puissant Loxias 
Shall answer for the issue. Lord of spells 
And wisard leechcraft, (62) he, whose grace assoils 
Houses defiled, shall he not purge his own ? 


I will not fail thee ; near or far away, 
I am thy guardian always, and my hand 
Shall not be light upon thy foes. Behold 
Entrapped and sunk in sleep these madding fiends, 
These haggard wenches, with whose horrid eld 
Nor God doth ever mate, nor man, nor beast. (69 > 
Dark as the sin that gave them being, dark 
E'en as themselves their hold, eschewed of men 
And gods Olympian, in the nether pit 
Of Tartarus. Yet must thou fly amain, 
And brace thine heart. For they will hunt 

thee far 
O'er the world's beaten highways, many a reach 


Of land and sea, and many a sea-girt town. 
But fret thee not nor falter, ere thou plant 
Thy weary feet in Pallas' city. There 
Take sanctuary, clasping in thine arms 
Her golden image, (8 ) till her folk^s assize 
Shall hear my charitable pleas, and I, 
Avoucher of thy bloody act, shall find 
Means to discharge thee wholly of thy pain. 

Orest. My lord Apollo, be thy hand alert 
To earnest thine intent of equity. 
Do justice in the measure of thy strength. 

Apoll. Beware ! Let naught appal nor daunt thy wit. 
I charge thee by our sonship, brother mine, (89) 
Hermes, yclept the guide,< 91) to shepherd this 
My suppliant and guard him, e'en as Zeus, 
Our common father, owns thy cognisance, 
The gospel of all outlaws o'er the earth/ 93 ) 
[Exeunt : the Ghost <J/~CLYTEMNESTRA appears. 


Sleep on ! What service have I of your sleep ? 
For now I go amid the phantom dead 
Ashamed, despised of you among them all, 
And their reviling ceases not, because 
I slew him. Yea, I tell you, I endure 
Deepest reproach from them ; but for my sake, 
Whom mine own kin so foully have abused, 
Who bled by a son's hand, not one is wroth 
Of all your powers. Behold, who dealt this gash 
Upon my heart ; for lo ! the earthy film, 
Which hides by day the morrow of our days, 
Doth open to the sleeping spirit's sight. (105) 
Sooth, ye have lapped of my drink-offerings, 








Gift upon gift, and well ye were apaid 
With sober spilth and wineless ; (107) many a feast 
Of sacrifice ye made upon my hearth < 108 > 
Aflame in the night-watches, (109) which no god 
Divides with you. And ye must trample all 
My duty 'neath your feet. For he is fled ! 
He slipped you like a fawn ; aye, lightly sprang 
From forth your toils and flouts you to your face. 
Quicken your drowsed wit, ye sprites of Hell. 
Hear Clytemnestra breathe her deadly pain, 
And cry her instant challenge in your dreams. 

{A muttering^- 1 

Aye, moan ! But he hath fled upon his way. 
Mykinsfolk have theirchampion,! have none/ 119) 

[A muttering. 

Orestes gone ! My son ! My murderer ! 
And thou art drowsed nor reckest of my hurt. 

\A groaning. 

Nay, hush thy slumb'rous moaning ! Wake anon! 
What work, save my undoing, hast thou done ? 

[A groaning. 

Slumber and toil have sworn their covenant 
To strike our fearful dragon (127) all amort. 

\A loud groaning redoubled. 

Chor. i. Seize him ! Seize him ! 

Chor. 2. Seize him ! Seize him ! 

Chor. 3. Mark ! 

Clyt. 'Tis but a quarry of thy restless dream 

Thou huntest like some fretful hound asleep. 
What ! Art thou e'en o'erwearied,and wilt whine 
And drowse away thy slothful discontent ? 
I'll wring thy heart, if it hath grace enough 
To feel the prick of true compunction. Up ! 


Disbowel thy diseaseful fiery fumes, 

And vent thy gory breath upon him. Up, 

And blight and blast him with a second chase. (139) 


Alack, sisters mine, alack ! grievous hurt 

Sore injury and wanton, woe is me ! 

A pitiful heavy discomfiture hath o'ertaken us. Our 
quarry hath slipped us and escaped the snare. 

The robber sleep hath purloined my prize. 

And thou, son of Zeus, art forelaying us. 

Thou youthful god, who ridest down our eld ! 

That unkindly child hath suborned thy grace to covin, 
forsooth, and gross indulgence for his mother's 

Wilt thou justify his ungodliness ? 

A challenge fell upon my dream and lashed me, as 
'twere a driver bearing me hard with fast-clenched 
goad at my heart and my reins. 

The ribald reproachful voice searcheth me throughly, 
like a fierce gaoler's scourge, unto the quick. 

Despiteful is the younger race of Heaven, an outrage- 
ous tyranny ! Yon altar-seat (164 > is red from the 
cope to the foot.< 165) 

Behold ye, Earth's navel stinks, flecked with a foul 
attaint of bloodguiltiness upon its face. 

Thou hast defiled thy hearth and sanctuary in thy 
self-mettle, thou who ensamplest the seer ; re- 
creant to Heaven for men's idle sake, thou dis- 
honouredst the ancient Fates/ 174 * 

Beshrew his malice ; nathless I will fang yon guilt- 
ridden wight in Earth's nether hold ; yet one 



' Earths Navel '. 


more familiar of the brood shall do fiendly mis- 
chief on his pate. 

APOLLO re-enters. 

Apoll. Out, out, I charge ye, straightway from this place. 
Quit ye my holy closet, or belike 
This golden bowstring will let slip on thee 
A winged glistVing snake, (182 >and thou wilt heave 
From out thy writhing gorge the crimson spume 
Of mortal blood, which thou hast quaffed. 

A vaunt ! 

This is no dwelling for your feet to touch. 
Nay, get ye to the land of bloody dooms/ 186 * 
Beheadings, gouged eyes, knives at the throat, 
And lusty boyhood cankered in the bud/ 188 ) 
Hacking and stoning and loud agony 
Long-drawn of men spine-broken. (190) Such 

the cheer 

Ye love and therefore are ye loathed of Heaven. 
Lo, in your horrid favour < 192) 'tis confessed 
Full plain ; some lion^s bloodied lair were meet 
To house your kind. Ye shall not neighbour 


To fix pollution on mine oracle. 
Depart, ye goats, who herd in solitude ; 
No god hath heart to pasture such a flock. (197) 

Chor. My lord Apollo, hear us in our turn. 

This is thy mere contrivance ; thou alone 
Art author, not abettor, of the deed. 

Apoll. And prithee, why ? Stint not thine argument. 

Chor. " Go, slay thy mother,"" was thy oracle. 

Apoll. Aye, to avenge his father : wherefore not ? 

Chor. Thou did'st engage with him to shed that blood. 


Apoll. Yea, to this house I bade him sue for shrift. 

Chor. And us thou gibest, who escorted him. 

Apoll. My temple doth disdain such visitants. 

Chor. Nay, 'tis but our appointed ministry. 

Apoll. A pretty office ! Is that all thy pride ? 

Chor. We hunt the mother-slayer from his home. 

Apoll. What, if the mother's hand hath slain her lord ? 

Chor. That were no shedding of pure kindred blood. 

Apoll. Go to ! Thou dost degrade and set at naught 
That sacred troth, which wifely < 214) Hera pledged 
To Zeus, and she of Cyprus, who creates 
The dearest human bond, is clean belied 
And scouted in thy plea. For wedlock hath 
Its fatal sanchion, (2l7) mightier than oaths, 
Within the keep of Justice. Dost thou slur 
Thy count and hast no eyes of wrath, if spouse 
Slay spouse ? Nay, then, I challenge this thy 

ban' 221 ) 

Upon Orestes. His offence, forsooth, 
Lies heavy on thy heart ; for hers, I trow, 
Thou hast but half-faced advocacy. Go ! 
To heavenly Pallas 1 court be my appeal ! 

Chor. Nay, I will quit yon culprit nevermore. 

Apoll. Pursue him then and ply thy wasteful toil. 

Chor. I have my honours ; spare thy cavilling. 

Apoll. I would not take thy honours for a gift. 

Chor. Oh, thou art proud and mighty at the seat 

Of Zeus ! But he shall meet his doom in us. 
My feet are on the trail of mother's blood. 

Apoll. I will e'en help and shield my suppliant. 

Dread were the wrath in Earth and Heaven, if I 
Cast him unshriven from the mercy-seat. (234) 

[Exeunt : the scene changes. 


Orest. Sovran Athene, by Apollo's will 

I crave thy grace, who am a pilgrim banned 
Yet not bloodguilty, (237) nor with hands un- 

cleansed ; 

The sanguine stain is paled and quite outworn 
With use of earthly houses and highways, 
And weary traversing of land and sea. 
Wherefore, obeying his oracular hest, 

goddess, I draw near thy dwelling-place 
And holy image. Here, in sanctuary, 

1 will await the trial of my cause. 
Chor. Aha ! The silent spy upon his path 

Betrays our felon clear as blood can speak. 
Follow, as hounds that track a wounded fawn. 
This dribbled gore discovers his retreat. 
My very heartstrings labour with our long 
Distressful march. Yea, I have scoured the 


From shore to shore, and swept across the sea, 
Swift as a winged galley on my feet. 
Perchance he is anigh in cover. Soft ! 
I catch the pleasant odour of man's blood. (254 > 

Look ! Look, I say ! Spy everywhere, lest the 

slayer flit and pay us no scot. 
There ! See him again kneeling for life's sake, fast to 

our great lady's image/' 250 ) fain of her assize for 

his deed. 
That may not be ; a mother's blood returneth never 

from the ground. Alack ! The lifeblood that 

is spilt doth fleet to the void. 
Mine earnest is the red juice, which thou shalt give 

me to suck from thy living limbs, thy carrion 

wine whereon I will batten. 


Thy bones shall stare upon thee or e'er I hale thee 
below, to torment thee for thy mother's pain. 

Whosoever of sinful mortal kind hath violated god or 
stranger or parents, there shalt thou see him re- 
quited in the measure of his deeds. 

Yea, for Hades ( 272) is mighty beneath the earth, when 
he maketh inquisition of all misdoing upon the 
vigilant tables of his heart. 

Orest. Well tried and prenticed in the painful lore 
Of absolution, I can speak betime 
Or hold my peace. (278) In this adventure he, 
The master of his craft, hath loosed my tongue. 
For lo, my mother's blood upon my hands 
Is drowsed and sicklied ; mine attaint doth cleave 
No more. While yet 'twas fresh, at Phoebus 1 


I had my saving baptism of the blood 
Of swine. (283) 'Twere long to reckon all the 


Whom I have coped in scathless intercourse. 
Time waxing old undoeth V s everything. 
And now with voice devout and innocent 
I call your queen Athena to her place, 
To win me by her aid, and make her gain 
In friendly conquest of my land and us, 
Burghers of Argos/ 290 ^ her allies assured 
And ever stedfast. Whether now she plants 
Her step erect or rests her shrouded foot (294) 
In Libya's distant haunts, by Triton's stream, 
Her native water, championing her own, 
Or with a bold commanding eye surveys < 295 > 
The plain of Phlegra, may she hear, as gods 
Hear from afar, and come to my release. 

" She plants her step erect 


Chor. Nay, not Apollo nor Athena^s might 

Can rescue thee, O wretched castaway ! 

Joy is extermined from thy very soul, 

Vile wraith and bloodless victim of the pit/ 302 * 

Our living banquet ; for thou shalt not pour 

Thy lifeblood on the altar unto waste. 

What ? Hast no answer ? Scornest thou my 


Thou felon consecrate and kept for us P^ 305 * 
Now shalt thou hear our spell of witching 



Come, array we all a roundel ( 307 > 
For our purpose, 
And proclaim in direful descant, 
How each mortal score is written 
Well and truly in the record 
Of our sisterhood of wrath. 
Vengeance none of ours doth visit 
Him who sheweth undefiled 
Hands ; he goeth free and scathless 
To the bourn. But he, who cloaketh, 
As this culprit, his uncleanness, 
In the strict assize, where surely 
Waits our witness on the dead, 
When the bloody count is balanced, 
He shall know us face to face. 

Hear me, O mother Night/ 322 ) my mother, from 
whose womb I went forth to punish^ 323 ) the quick and 
the dead ! The son of Lato would rob me, to my 
disgrace, of this craven, appointed to atone for his 
mother's blood. 


Wretch, devoted and foredone ! 
Lo ! our sacrifice is won ! 
'Tis Erinys 1 binding spell, 
Doleful minstrelsy, 
Deadly discord in thy brain/ 330 ) 
Deadly blight, thy blood to drain. 
Tis the doleful chant of Hell 
Soothly sung for thee. 

'Tis our founded office, yea, straitly set in the skein 
of Fate, (335 ) to hunt every mortal wight, who frowardly 
molesteth his kindred, until he go down to the grave ; 
though he die, he is nowise free. 

Wretch devoted and foredone ! 
Lo ! our sacrifice is won ! 
'Tis Erinys' binding spell, 
Doleful minstrelsy, 
Deadly discord in thy brain, 
Deadly blight, thy blood to drain. 
'Tis the doleful chant of Hell, 
Soothly sung for thee. 

From the solitary vantage of our birthright we defy 
the sons of Heaven ; not one hath fellowship in our 
feasts. Nor part nor lot is mine in white gala 
weeds/ 352 ) Mine election is the overthrowing of a 
house, wherein Ares cuddleth on a kinsman's sword. 
Oh, we give brave chase to the runagate and moulder 
the heyday in his blood. 

Our charge doth brook no neighbour's interloping ; 
mine empery alloweth no breedbate god to prevent 
my suppliants/ 362 ) For Zeus hath e'en disdained to 
parley with our bloody abhorred race. Howbeit with 


a mighty ramp I fling upon the trail, and ruin goeth 
striding with me to o'erbear the swift. 

The crown of man's pride is trodden down and 
sinketh below the ground, at the rushing of our dusky 
robes and the mischievous dancing (376) of our feet. 

The evil-doer knoweth not of his falling for the 
blindness of his heart, and the abomination of dark- 
ness that is upon him. He heareth not the sound of 
rumour ; he seeth not the gathering of a thick cloud 
upon his house. 

Awful are we, who inhabit eternity/ 381 * and our 
sleight never faileth, the recorders of wickedness, in 
whom is no relenting. With worship none nor re- 
compense, we beat the pitfalls of the seeing and the 
sightless withal, in the visible gloom (387) apart from 

Wherefore know all the earth our name of fear, 
and hear this our plenary charter, which we hold of 
Fate and grace divine. Yea, I have my title of the 
ages and my pride of place, albeit my sentry is in 
the sunless murk of Hell. 

Enter ATHENA. 

Athen. I caught the voice of thine appeal afar, 

Seizing me, by Scamader, of the land, (398) 
Which your Achaean earls and generals 
Assigned to me entirely, root and branch, 
An ample portion of their spoils of war 
Sealed and reserved to Theseus' children. 


This chariot, look ye, and this mettled team, (405) 
The swirl of bellied aegis, strong as wings, 


Wafted my feet unwearied. Now there 


Not fear, but marvel, on mine eyes, to see 
This uncouth pilgrimage. Say, one and all, 
Who are ye thou, sir, here in sanctuary 
Beside mine image, and yon brood unlike 
To any sprung of mortal seed, nor known 
Where god with goddess communes face to face, 
Nor cast in mortal mould. But to affront 
A neighbour for no grudge were mockery, 
Eschewed of comely usage and of right. 

Chor. My story, maiden child of Zeus, is brief. 
Our mother is the sullen Night, our name 
Wrath-sprites (417 > in our abodes beneath the 

Athen. I know your birth and proper cognisance. 

Chor. Sooth, thou shalt learn our dignities anon. 

Athen. Nay, speak it plain, if thou would'st rede my wit. 

Chor. Tis ours to hunt the murderer from his home. 

Athen, Where, prithee, hath thy fugutive his bourne ? 

Chor. In a far deathful vale of discontent. 

Athen. What ! Is it to that hell thou houndest him ? 

Chor. He hath a mothers blood upon his soul. 

Athen. Was there no sterner threat constraining him ? 

Chor. A mother's blood ! What goad should drive to 
that ? 

Athen. I have but heard one party and one plea. 

Chor. He will refuse the challenge and the oath/ 429) 

Athen. Thou wouhTst be just in title, not in act. 

Chor. Why ? Sure, thy logic hath the reason pat. 

Athen. Ensue no wrongful vantage of an oath. 

Chor. Put us to witness, then, without demur. (433) 

Athen. Will ye entrust the judgment unto me ? 


Chor. Yea, for thy worth and worthy lineage. 

Athen. Sir, thy rejoinder I will hear ; but first , 
Declare to me thy country and thy kin 
And fortunes ; then address thee to their charge, 
Since justice gives thee faith to kneel, as knelt 
The suppliant Ixion/ 441 * name of awe, 
Before this image on my hearth. To all 
My questions make one pregnant, plain reply. 

Orest. Lady Athena, I will first undo 

One sore surmise, which thy last words import. 
I have no ban upon me ; < 445) soilure none 
Cleaves to my guiltless hand reposing here 
Upon thine image. Lo, I tender thee 
This weighty proof : a spell of silence lies 
By rule upon the slayer, till a priest 
Hath gashed some suckling of the flock to purge 
His stain. Behold, I am absolved of mine 
By blood and water spilt ere now for me 
In holy places. So would I rebut 
That doubt. Now, would'st thou of my kin- 
dred know, 

I am an Argive. Storied in thy ken 
Is Agamemnon's name, who was my sire, 
Thy fellow marshal of the ships, what time 
Thou madest desolation where was Troy 
And Ilion. Homeward thence he fared, and 


A death disgraceful by my mother's hand, 
That wrought her heart's black purpose in his 


Yea, trapped and shrouded him in cunning toils, 
My timely (4t51) witness of that crimsoned bath. 
Give ear to my avowal : I, restored 



From very exile, took my mother's life 
In fee for mine own father, blood for blood. 
Nor I alone, but Loxias with me 
Is answerable ; for he spurred my heart 
With threats of trouble, if I failed to take 
The penal forfeit. Was it just, or no ? 
Try thou the issue ; I will e'en accept 
What doom soe'er befalls at thy assize. 
Athen. This matter is too high for mortal wit, 
Nor mine the right to arbitrate a suit 
For blood so hotly waged ; and thou withal 
Art here in sanctuary, a suppliant 
Perfect and pure ; thy presence brings no taint 
Nor blame upon my town, which welcomes thee. 
Yet may I not refuse these ministers. 
They have their honour, and if victory 
Reward them not, the venom of their rage 
Will fall in slow, consuming pestilence 
Upon the land. Such choice is laid on me, 
Whether they go or bide, a painful strait. 
But since the cause hath lighted in my charge, 
I will appoint me judges pledged and sworn 
For doom of bloodshed, and mine ordinance 
Shall stand unto all time. Now summon all 
Witness and proof ye may, for appanage 
Of justice. When I come, I will select 
The noblest of my city to adjudge 
The quarrel in all truth and fealty .< 489 > 


Lo, if the injurious plea of this slayer prevail, the 
ancient ordinance is untimely fordone. This deed 
will forthwith temper mortal kind to frowardness ; 


yea, a sword hangeth in the armoury of time, where- 
on is blazoned full many a parent's death. 

For the eyes of our vengeance shall no more run to 
and fro through the earth. I will set murder utterly 
abroach, till every man shall ask, when is woe to cease 
or abate, (505) and noise his neighbour's trouble and 
babble of rotten salves without avail. 

Then let not the downfallen cry unto us nor drone 
his refrain : "Ah Justice ! Ah the seat of Erinys ! " 
I wot, many a father will bemoan him and mothers 
cry for their hurt, because the temple of Justice is 

Fear must needs keep watch and sentry betimes on 
the soul ; with sorrow soberness (521 > cometh meetly. 
What city or man, whose lightsome heart nurseth no 
dread, will regard justice any more ? 

Betwixt licence and subjection elect thy way of life ; 
the manifold providence of Heaven alway directeth 
the mean^ 529 ) to thrift. 'Tis a pregnant saying withal : 
violence (533) is a true child misbegot of ungodliness, but 
a sound heart hath rich issue of blessing and gladness. 

This is the sum of my commandment : reverence 
the seat of Justice, nor dash thy godless foot against it 
for purblind greed ; else art thou forfeit and thy doom 
shall surely ensue. Wherefore let every man crown 
his parents with worship, and do grace and honour 
unto the worthy stranger in his house. (547) 

Whoso of his free will and purpose (549) ensueth 
justice, he shall gather plentifully and reap not de- 
struction at any time. But for the iniquitous and stiff- 
hearted, I aver, he shall make jetsam of the heaped 
spoil of his unrighteousness, when he is scattered, 
horn ( 557) and halyard, by a sudden blast. 


He is overthwarted in the flood and none heareth 
him save the fiend, (560) who rejoiceth to lurch his hot 
ambition ; for behold ! he is distressed and astonied 
and cannot beat off the land. His fortune is broken 
upon the rock of justice ; he foundereth for evermore, 
an emptied wraith unwept. 

ATHENA re-enters with APOLLO, ORESTES, and the 

Athen. Call silence, crier, and constrain the host. 

Then let your Tyrrhene trumpet^ 667 ) thrill the 

And, charged with breath that is of earth, (568) 


Its haughty clangour in the people's ear. 
Now, while your council gather in their place, 
'Tis meet that all the burgh stand mute with 

him/ 573 ) 

To hear mine everlasting ordinance 
And aid the due decision of this cause. 

Chor. Nay, keep thine own dominion. What concern 
Hast thou, my lord Apollo, in this case ? 

ApolL For this man's sake, my lawful suppliant, 
Whose sanctuary was my hearth, because 
To mine account is laid that mother's blood 
Whereof I purged him, I am come to plead 
And witness likewise. Open now thy court, 
And let thy wit adjudge this difference. 
. The assize is open. 'Tis for you to speak, 
Who are pursuers, and in proper rote 
Rehearse the preface of your argument. 


Char. Many are we, (585) but brief our questioning. 

So be thy answers pat and pertinent. 

Say, hast thou slain thy mother. Aye, or no ? 
Orest. I slew her ; I demur not on that count. 
Chor. Lo now, thou hast thy fall, the first of three/ 589 ) 
Orest. Oh spare thy whooping ; I shall fling thee yet. 
Chor. How did'st thou slay her ? Thou must answer 


Orest. Know then, I drew my sword upon her throat. 
Chor. Who was thy tempter ? Who thy counsellor ? 
Orest. His hest divine, who witnesseth for me. 
Chor. So 'twas our oracler, who lessoned (595) thee ? 
Orest. I am content ; he hath bestead me well. 
Chor. In yonder urn awaits thy discontent. 
Orest. I trust my buried sire will succour me. 
Chor. Trust in the dead ? Trust her thou did'st to 

death ! 

Orest. My mother was twice guilty, twice defiled. 
Chor. How may that be ? Thy judges fain would 


Orest. She slew my father and her lord withal. 
Chor. Death hath acquitted her, but thou dost live. 
Orest. Why slept thy persecution, while she lived? ^ 604 ^ 
Chor. She was not of the blood of him she slew. 
Orest. Am I my mother's kinsman, e'en in blood ? 
Chor. O thou unclean, disownest thou the womb 

That nursed thee, and the blood that is thy 

own ? 
Orest. Now witness thou, Apollo, and expound, 

If this were lawful bloodshed ; for the deed, 

E'en as alleged, is proven by default. 

Thou, of thy wisdom, weigh it in the scale 

Of right, and rule my pleading 'fore this court. 


ApolL Ye of Athena's high tribunal, list ! 

I, the true seer, will tell ye naught but truth 
And justice. Mark withal the potency 
Of "justice" on my lips. I never spake 
From my prophetic seat concerning man, 
Woman or city, save upon the hest 
Of Zeus, Olympus' sire and mine. His will 
I charge ye now to further. For an oath < 621 > 
Is mighty, but a mightier is Zeus. 

Chor. 'Twas Zeus, forsooth, who put it in thy mouth 
By foul despite to slur a mother's claim, 
So that Orestes but avenged his sire. 

ApolL How liken ye their deeds ? A lord to die, 

High-born, who held from Zeus the sceptre's 

pride/ 626 ) 

And by a woman's hand, no Amazon 
With her impetuous pursuing bow. 
Nay, hear thou, Pallas, how he fell, and ye, 
Her court, whose verdict shall adjudge this cause. 
Hot from the field, his prize and purchase won, 
With loud fanfaronade < 631) receiving him, 
E'en as his foot o'erstepped the bath, she hung 
A closed robe about him, and within 
That mazy curtain hacked her spouse to death. 
So perished he, the lordly admiral 
And king all-worshipful. Bethink ye, sirs, 
What woman did this thing ? Burn not your 

O righteous judges, in this hour of doom ? 

Chor. What ! Zeus is jealous for a father slain ? 
Yet was the ancient Cronos prisoned, sire 
By son divine. Thou dost gainsay thyself. 
Sirs, I adjure ye, mark the inference. 


Apoll. Not so, ye loathly fiends, abhorred of Heaven. 
That was no deadly hurt. Who binds may 

loose C 645 ) 

As lightly of his own resource. But none 
Can raise to life the dead, whose mortal blood 
Earth's dust hath drunk. Yon emperor, my 


Who shuffles the vast world without a throb 
Of his indomitable heart, e'en he 
Is master of no spell to charm the grave. 

Chor. Beware, what man's defence thou dost abet. 

Shall he, who spilt his mother's kindred blood, 
Dwell here in Argos in his father's house ? 
What altar of the town will suffer him ? 
What clansman of them all wash hands with 
him?' 656 ) 

Apoll. Give ear again and mark mine utterance 

Of truth. Men say " a mother's child," but she 
Is nurse, not mother, of the quickened germ. 
The male is parent ; she in alien wise ^ 660) 
Keeps safe the seedling life, if it escape 
God's blight. My doctrine stands upon this 

proof : 

A sire may be without a mother. Here 
Is present evidence, this maid of Zeus, 
The pride of all Olympus, who eschewed 
The womb's dark nursery ; (665) yet goddess none 
Could bear a scion like to her. Enough ! 
'Tis my intent, O Pallas, that thy town 
And people win to greatness : for that cause 
I sent my suppliant to thy hearth of grace, 
That he should plight thee everlasting faith, 
And thou, O goddess, gain an ally more. 


Yea, long and sure this covenant shall bide 
Between his children and thy peopled seed/ 673 ) 

Athen. Will ye I close the pleading and command (674) 
A true and honest verdict of the court ? 

Chor. We have discharged our arrows to the last, 
And bide the end in stern expectancy. 

Athen, What would ye ? How may I avoid offence ?< 678) 

Apoll. Our parley, sirs, is done ; 'tis yours to vote 
And guard the oath unsullied in your hearts. 

Athen. Hear now, ye Attic folk, Yore whose assize 
Bloodshed is first arraigned, this ordinance. 
The host of Aegeus t 083 * henceforth and for aye 
Shall keep this hall of judgment on the mount 
Of Ares : here (680 > the Amazon's array 
Camped in their tents, what time they waged 

their feud 

On Theseus ; here they raised their upstart walls 
Against your bastioned burgh, and sacrificed 
To Ares, whence this rocky pile hath yet 
The war-god's cognisance/ 689 * And here shall 


And fear, its kinsman, let my citizens 
By day and night withal from wickedness, 
If they disturb not their own polity. 
Foul the pure spring with offal, and thy lips 
Shall drink of mire, not water/ 695) So I rede ' 
My townsfolk : cherish ordered liberty 
And free obedience. Cast not fear amain 
From out your city. For what man is just, 
Who fears not ? Lo, this dread majestic place, 
Ruling your hearts, will be a keep and watch 
For land and town, whose like is not on earth 
From lonely Scythia unto Pelops' bounds. (703) 


By lucre undefiled, in honour rich, 

And prompt to punish, I establish here 

Your country's safeguard, ever vigilant 

For those who sleep. This lesson in your ears 

I leave, my burghers. Rise ye now and cast 

Your ballots faithfully, and judge the cause 

As ye are sworn in honour. I have done. 

Chor. Nay, but I counsel you, do no despite 

To us, whose wrathful presence threats your 

Apoll. I charge you, disappoint not nor defy 

Mine oracles, which are the voice of Zeus. 

Chor. Not thine by right is the assize of blood ; 

Thy shrine henceforth is perjured and attaint. 

Apoll. What ! When Ixion sought our mercy-seat 
For that first murder, was my sire at fault ? 

Chor. Prate as thou wilt, my malice shall return 
Upon this country, if I lose my cause. 

Apoll. I shall defeat thee. Title hast thou none 
In our Olympus nor the elder Heaven. 

Chor. Aye, in like fashion thou did'st lure the Fates 
To cheat the grave, man's bourn, in Pheres' 
house/ 724 ) 

Apoll. What fairer service than to serve my host 
And pious votary, when need befell ? 

Chor. Thou did'st befool our hoary sisterhood 

With wine, to bring the ancient law to naught. 

Apoll. Oh spit thy venom ! But thy wrath shall fall 
Light on the land, and thou wilt lose thy suit. 

Chor. Ride down mine eld in thy young pride ; I 


Impatient for the verdict, and my wrath 
Scarce pent is gathering against your town. 


Athen. My vote avails, before the doom is summed, 
And it shall stand Orestes in good stead/ 735 ) 
Born, and beholden to no mother, I 
With undivided heart prefer the man 
In all save wedlock. I am for the sire (738) 
Wholly, and will not overprize her death, 
Who slew the lord and guardian of her home. 
So, on an even tale, Orestes wins. 
Ye judges, who are charged to tell the votes, 
Up and discharge your office. Clear the urns.< 742) 

Orest. O bright Apollo ! what will be the doom ? 

Chor. Seest thou what they do, dark mother Night ? 

Orest. For me the halter < 746) or the light of life. 

Chor. Ruin for us or higher dignity. 

Apoll. Sirs, duly reckon ye < 748) each urn^s receipt, 
And in your sorting be there no amiss. (749) 
One ballot cast or missing from the count 
Hath stablished or abated many a house. 

Athen. The lots are equal, and the culprit stands 
Acquitted fully of bloodguiltiness/ 753) 

Orest. Hail to thee, Pallas, my deliverer ! 

Thou hast restored me, exiled and outcast 
From house and fatherland, and they will say 
In Hellas : " Lo, he hath his Argive right, 
His father's heritage again," by grace 
Of Loxias and Pallas and the Third,< 759 > 
The saviour and supreme, who saveth me, 
E'en for the ruth he bare my murdered sire, 
From these, my mother's pleaders. Ere I go 
Upon my homeward way, I plight my troth (764) 
Thus to the land and people of my love : 
For all the volume of the coming years 
No captain of my nation shall affront 


Thy borders with his bravery of war ; (767 > 
For I, from out my dwelling in the tomb, 
Whene'er they violate my covenant, 
Will thwart their march with mischievous re- 

Malign their enterprise, and chill their hearts, 
Till they repent them of their pains ; but sure 
Abides my benison, while they ensue 
The stedfast way, and their confederate arms 
Magnify Pallas' city. Fare ye well, 
Thou and thy burgesses. Strong be your hold 
To throw your foemen, strong for your defence 
And strong to crown your spears with victory . (777) 



Upstart brood of Heaven, ye tear 
From our hands and overbear 

In your lust the law of ages. 
Daughters of the Night forlorn, 
Let our wrath requite their scorn ; 

Be the woes of men our wages ! 
Lo, the soil shall drink our bane ; 
For a deadly dew shall rain, 
Cankered hearts' envenomed spume, (784) 
Blight of leaf and blight of womb, 
Till the noisome dust entomb 
Fruit of earth and seed of man 
Mouldering beneath our ban. 

Athen. I charge ye, take it not resentfully. 

"Tis no defeat ; the verdict, fairly passed 
On the divided vote, degrades not thee. 


Nay, heard ye not the blazon that went forth 

From Zeus ? Prophet and witness spake as one, 

To quit Orestes of his penalty. 

Oh spare to fling your angry malison 

In wasteful blight upon the land, nor shed 

Your cancVous tears in dire unearthly dew 

To batten sourly on the velvet blade. (803) 

Lo, 'tis a faithful promise ; ye shall have 

Your dark sequestered shrines ( 805) amid a land 

Made righteous ; yea, your altar-stones ( 806) shall 

With fatness, and my burgh shall be your pride. 


Upstart brood of Heaven, ye tear 
From our hands and overbear 

In your lust the law of ages. 
Daughters of the Night forlorn, 
Let our wrath requite their scorn ; 

Be the woes of men our wages. 
Lo, the soil shall drink our bane, 
For a deadly dew shall rain, 
Cankered hearts' envenomed spume, 
Blight of life and blight of womb, 
Till the noisome dust entomb 
Fruit of earth and seed of man, 
Mouldering beneath our ban. 

Athen. Think not ye are demeaned, nor grossly wreak 
Your fell displeasure on a famished land, 
Hurting the humbler race. Mine office, ware ! 
Is stayed on Zeus, whose arm, ye wot, is strong. 
To me and to none else in Heaven is known 
The chamber, where his bolt is locked and sealed. 


But let it sleep ! Be no more obdurate ; 
Scatter no tares of thy rank, scathing tongue, 
To make our soil a wilderness. Allay 
The bitterness of thy dark-leavened soul ; 
For thou shalt share the pride of my abode. 
Thine shall be gifts, firstfruits of many a field, 
For seed of holy wedlock, (835) thine for aye ; 
And thou wilt ne'er repent this covenant. 


Woe ! Woe ! that we must wander, 
Hell's only shame and slander, 

We, outcast heirs of distant eld, 
Doomed by yon gods to cower 
Before their craft and power, 

From olden pride of place expelled ! 

Oh sore the anguish, Mother Night ! 

Fury we breathe and utter spite ; 

List to our rage, defend our right ! 

Athen. I will forgive thy choler, since thy days 

Are more than mine, thy wisdom weightier/ 849 ^ 
Albeit of Zeus I have a potent wit. 
If ye depart from us to foreign folk, 
Ye will be lovesick, I foretell, for this 
My country, when the waxing flood of time 
Wafts golden glory to my burgesses. 
For thou withal beside Erectheus 1 pile (855) 
Shalt have thy stately seat and guerdons rich, 
More than all earthly peoples could bestow, 
From men and matrons in their companies. 
Then, (858) prithee, set no bloody forge of death 
Within my borders. Poison not young breasts 
With the strong wine of hatred ; plant in them 


No filched hearts of fighting-cocks, (861) to raise 

The savagery of intestine strife 

Among my townsmen. Let him have no stint 

Of war abroad, in whom the fell desire 

For fame shall grow, but ah ! avaunt the fray 

Of home-bred birds. These boons are thine to 


Now, at my hands ; and ye shall have your part 
In this God-loving ( 869 ) land, with fair exchange 
Of favour, gracing us and amply graced. 


Woe ! Woe ! that we must wander, 
Hell's only shame and slander, 

We, outcast heirs of distant eld, 
Doomed by yon gods to cower 
Before their craft and power, 

From olden pride of place expelled ! 

Oh sore the anguish, Mother Night ! 

Fury we breathe and utter spite ; 

List to our rage, defend our right ! 

Athen. I will bespeak thee still in charity. 

Thou shalt not say that I, a younger child 
Of Heaven, or these citizens of earth, 
Turned thee a graceless vagrant from our soil. 
Wherefore, if holy Suasion < 886 > is for thee 
A name of awe, and my soft tongue hath power 
To stay thee, bide ; but hadst thou liefer go, 
'Twere sheer injustice to annoy my burgh 
With wrath and malice ruining the host, 
Since thou may'st have thy meed of dignity, 
Thine equitable portion in our land. 


Chor. Say, queen Athena, what abode is ours ? 

Athen. Trust me, 'tis no distressful dwelling-place. 

Chor. What honour waits me here, if I consent ? 

Athen. Without thy blessing not a house shall thrive. 

Chor. Wilt thou possess me of such influence ? 

Athen. Yes, I will prosper all thy worshippers. 

Chor. And shall thy pledge endure eternally ? 

Athen. I will not plight my word to make it void. 

Chor. Methinks thou movest me ; my wrath relents. 

Athen. So shalt thou win good friends and neighbourly. 

Chor. What prayers wilt have me utter for the land ? 

Athen. Pray for the victory that hath no gall, 

Blessing from earth and from the ocean dew 
And from the sky above. Pray that the winds 
May blow upon our plain with breath serene, 
The lively affluent increase of the fields 
And flocks ne'er fail this city, and the seed 
Of human kind be spared. Uproot alone 
The wicked from among us. For I love, 
E'en as a husbandman his fruit, the stock 
Of this my righteous (912) folk and innocent. 
Such be thy part, and I will promise fame 
Unto my town before the world, and haste 
To crown her in the splendid lists of war. 



We will dwell in loyal 
League with Pallas 1 town. 

From great Zeus the royal 
City holds her crown. 

Yea, the gods empower 
Athens and she reigns, 


Ares' pride, the tower 

Guarding Hellas' fanes/ 920 ) 

May the earth for thee outpour, 
'Neath the sun's caressing, 

All her riches evermore, 
Waft thee all her blessing. 


Mark ye what bounty I invoke 
Full gladly, O my folk, 
From your unearthly inmates, strong 
And jealous ; to their watch belong 
Your lives. The careless man, whose lot 
Was light, is smit and knoweth not 
Whence falls the hasty stroke, 
Whene'er unrighteous deeds of yore < 935) 
Bring these fierce judges to his door, 
And noiseless vengeful death 
Stifles his haughty breath. 

Parching drought, while we bestead, 

Spare thy leafy places, 
Suffer thy young vines to spread 

Through the orchard spaces. (941) 
May no murrain o'er thy plain 

Cast its heavy shadow ; 
Twinning ewes their nurture drain 

From thine every meadow/ 944) 
May the rock for thee beteem 

All its precious burden ; ( 947 > 
And our godsend thou esteem 

Worth full many a guerdon. 



Hear ye, my city's ancient guard, 
What boons Erinys doth award, 
That power dread 
Among the deathless and the dead. 
Full plain her potency is signed 
Upon the lives of mortal kind ; 
One she attunes to song, and blears 
Another with sad tears. 


Blighting death no more, for ruth, 

Manhood's spring deflower ; 
Maidens in their lovely youth 

Haste with love to dower, 
Gods (960) and Fates, whose perfect law 

Orders every dwelling, 
Sisters stern, engirt with awe, 

Justice aye compelling. 


Welcome your love, who freely grant 

To my dear land your covenant ; 

And blest be Suasion, whose sooth look 

Controlled my lips and tongue, and shook 

Grim hearts that turned askant. 

O willing captives and devote 

To Zeus, the guardian of the mote, (973) 

Victors for ever, ye and I 

In rivalry of grace will vie. 




Ne'er may raving Faction seek 

Your heart's blood for fuel, 
Never work her deadly wreake 

Here in civic duel. 
May thy folk in love be one, 

Be they one in hating ; (986) 
Peace be all their benison, 

Every ill abating. 


Behold, their chastened tongues have hit 

The gracious path of benefit ; 

Grim visages, beneath whose spell 

Wealth in my city's lap shall swell : 

If still with righteous mind 

Ye pay their kindness (992 > in your kind, 

An upright polity as well 

Shall blazon and proclaim 

Mine Athens and the Attic name. 


Fare ye well, O friends, enjoy 
Wealth and weal without alloy, 
Citizens enthroned as kings, 
Nigh to Zeus, "neath Pallas'" wings, (99S) 
Dear to him, for ye are hers. 
He regards her worshippers, 
Chastened, as your queen is chaste, 
Lovers by her favour graced. 



Farewell I bid ye and command 

The lights to beam, the blood to pour, 

And women (1004) in their radiant band 

Xo ope with me your cavern door 

In holy pride and pomp. Away ! 

Withhold all bane, I pray, 

Send for our friendly tryst 

Glory eterne and grist. 

Show, sons of Cranaus, (1011) the road 

To our strange citizens' 1 abode, 

And be your city's heart 

Boon for their bounteous part. 


Joy we offer, yea, recall 
Joy upon your town for all, 
Men and heroes, who maintain 
Pallas 1 burgh without a stain. 
For your duty we will give 
Joy and welfare, while ye live, 
That ye never shall repent 
This our kindly settlement. 

Athen. Your words of intercession I acclaim, 

And now amid the torches 1 ruddy glare, (1022) 
I give you escort to your nether place (1023) 
In earth's retreat (1023) with trusty ministrants, 
The dameswho keep my image. (1024) For the face 
Of Theseus' 1 land will brighten/ 1025 ) as the troop 
Goes by in glory, maids and matrons all 
And priestly women marching in their robes 


Of festal purple. (1028) Raise your laud, and 


The splendour of your fire, that all the land 
May see henceforth their gracious presence 

Bright in the fortunes of a prosperous folk. 


Fare homeward, ye weird children of the Night, 
Mighty and jealous spirits, go 

(Countrymen, peace /) 
In joyful train, 'mid holy fire and light, 
To yon hoar ( 1037 > cave in earth below. 
(Peace, all ye people /< 1038 >) 
Only in pity 
Visit our city, 

Blessing and blest ; 
Torches are glowing, 
Honey is flowing ; 

On to your rest ! 
(Ololeu ! Sing ololeu /) 
Fate goes before thee, 
Zeus watches o'er thee, 

Pallas is thine ; 
Listed in triple 
League with thy people, 

City divine ! 
(Ololeu ! Sing ololeu /) 



(Agam. 160-183) 

ZEUS, our surest aid and best, 
Howsoe'er thou art addressed, 

Thee, the only name and power, 
By thy simple name we hail, 

Now the deadly shadows lower, 
And our spirits faint and fail. 

Man with wisdom is endowed, 
When his soul to Zeus hath bowed ; 

For the former Lord is reckoned 
As of naught and overpast, 

And a Mightier threw the second 
Vaunting champion at the last. 

Knowledge cometh of our pain ; 
So His wisdom doth ordain. 

For the heart in nightly travail 
Tells its tears ; the Gods above, 

Strong to guide, our path unravel 
By compelling whom they love. 



(Agam. 227-248) 

NAUGHT did any warlike elder 
Of the maiden's pleading reck : 

Like a kid the henchmen held her 
High uplifted, at his beck. 

Then they prayed, and on the altar, 
Closely swathed, his victim hung, 

And her voice no more might falter : 
" Spare me, father, I am young." 

But the saffron liv'ry fluttered 

Downward from her drooping head, 

And her wistful visage uttered, 
Like a picture, words unsaid. 

For those piteous eyes complaining 
Smote the butchers, each in turn, 

Though her lips in vain were straining 
Their relentless gags to spurn ; 

Lovely lips and pure that vestal 
Voice, amid the homely choir, 

Oft had sung, to swell the festal 
Chant of blessing for her sire. 

Ah ! his cruel heart misgave him, 
And he feared her dying breath, 

Lest the voice that prayed to save him 
Change and curse him unto death ! 




WELL they aver, 'twas Zeus who struck ; 

No secret here to thread ! 
E'en as he ordered, so their luck 

Was meted. One hath said, 
" Your gods concern them not, nor frown, 
Though sinners violate the crown 
Of holy usage." Impious tongue ! 
Behold from men the truth is wrung, 
Children of houses, which of old 
Breathed rank rebellion, overbold 
And swollen with surcharge 
Of wealth and power all too large. 
Be thine the sheltered way, the meed 
Of wisdom, which is wealth indeed. 
For riches are a vain defence 
Unto the worldling"^ insolence, 
Who dares the mighty seat of Justice thrust 
Beneath his feet in dust. 

He may not break the Tempter's spell, 

Her witchery of might, 
When, kindled by that imp of Hell, 

Red ruin is alight. 
Himself, discovered like the grain 
Of mottled bronze, betrays the stain 


Deep in his blackened heart the boy, 

Chasing his winged toy, 

Whose guilt upon his town shall press 

In deadly dole and bitterness. 

Vainly he sues at Heaven's door ; 

God hears him nevermore, 

But to perdition sends astray 

The fool upon his wicked way. 

So Paris came ; e'en such his soul, 

Who from Atrides' mansion stole 

A wife, and shamed the table of her lord 

By treachery abhorred. 

Dowered with death, the wanton fiend 

Swift through the gate was gone. 
And hark ! the vengeful town unqueened 

Doth menace Ilion, 
With trooping sea-dogs all astir, 
And shield and spear that clash for her ; 
While voices weird anent the king 
From home to home are oracling : 
" Alack the house ! Alack the bed, 
Which love imprinted ere it fled ! 
Lone in his seat, of voice forlorn, 
Returning not her scorn 
Whom his heart follows tar o'er sea, 
'Tis but a wraith of royalty, 
Who rules yon halls. Her statues' grace 
Is loathed now ; the vacant face, 
Where Aphrodite seemed erewhile to bask, 
Stares like a sightless mask. 

And mournful joys, to mock his grief, 
Enchant the lonely night 


In vain with comfort cold and brief. 

In vain ! The fair delight, 
A moment seen in fond surmise, 
Flits from his hands and from his eyes 
Upon the twilight path of sleep." 
Our houses too have woes to weep 
And larger trouble to rehearse, 
A very universe 

Of sore heartbreaking for the host, 
Who fared from every Grecian coast 
Together, and have left a smart 
In every home and every heart. 
They come, the wights remembered well, 
And naught have we who sent to tell ; 
For naught of all we loved returns 
Save manhood mouldering in urns. 

The war-god, who delights to hold 

His scale mid hurtling spears, 
Refines the dust, that is not gold, 

For blood and costly tears, 
And sends from Ilibn a load 
Of heaviness full lightly stowed. 
The miserable clay is pent 
Within its last environment ; 
And now they mourn a warrior tried, 
Now cry upon the accursed bride : 
" Woe worth the hour his life was spilt 
To wash away her guilt ! " 
Such fretful murmurs wax unknown ; 
An angrier, a louder moan 
Gathers on Atreus' sons who led ; 
And they, the undisfigured dead, 


Lie fielded still around the Trojan wall, 
And lords but of their earthy pall. 

A shadow, as of dire mischance, 

Hath overta'en my thought. 
The sullen burghers' sufferance 

Goes up with curses fraught. 
I trow, God keeps within His ken 
High-handed murderers of men. 
Who runs awhile, too swift, too strong, 
Upon the road of wrong, 
There follow low'ring on his track 
The sprites of wrath, to hale him back ; 
His lustre darkens in the grave ; 
He sinks, with none to save. 
For eyes divine with envy blaze, 
That strikes the man, whom men o'erpraise. 
Be mine the comfortable lot 
Of bliss, which Heaven grudges not. 
I would not waste the towns of stranger folk, 
Nor dwell with downcast eyes beneath their 




WHO named her ? What weird tongue unseen fore- 

Their doom with deft surmise ? 
Helen ! The spear-won wife, 
The hell of towns and ships and men at strife, 

From her rich canopies 

She sailed with giant Zephyr, when he called ; 
And mailed huntsmen in the rowers' wake, 

Through Simoi's' forest sighed 

Above the beached galley, plied 
The murderous quarrel for her sake. 

The wrath of Zeus in sufferance was pent 

Till Ilion's daughter, kin 
To death, in Heaven's time 
Haled her new brethren, whose loud bridal chime 

Attainted them of sin 

'Gainst hearth and home, unto their punishment. 
So Priam's ancient burgh, in other strain 

And dirgeful, last and first, 

On Paris cries, the bridegroom curst, 
For those her children's blood and bitter pain. 


As a lion's whelp she hath been, 

A child of the house for a day, 
Whom a man adventures to wean, 

And 'tis tame and gentle at play, 
The pet, while a summer runs, 

Of the old and the little ones, 
As it fawns with a hungry mien. 

But the lion's heart doth rouse, 

And 'tis quick to return his care 
With a fierce and free carouse ; 
For never a knave will dare 
To prevent the gory feast, 
Or deliver his sheep from the priest 
Whom the fool would hire and house. 

That presence softly brooding, for an hour, 

Seemed to the town a trance 
As of the waves at rest, 
A jewel smiling fair on Ilion's breast, 

A gently darted glance 

Of love, that bourgeoned into poignant flower. 
But love with death consorting, joys with fears, 

On Priam's house she trod, 

To venge the hospitable God, 
A Fury fed with widows' tears. 

My mind mislikes the ancient sage's tale, 

That fortune, fully grown, 
Begets a progeny 
And dies not childless ; for good luck, they cry, 

Hath issue of its own 

And heritage of rank increasing bale. 


Not so ! It is the pregnant deed of wrong 

That yields an aftergrowth 

Of kindred wickedness ; the house that doth 
Aright hath children ever fair and strong. 

For Violence, as a seed which was sown of old, 
A creature doth surely breed, who is young and bold. 
And she waxeth in woe upon men in the day of doom ; 
For the new-born beareth again, and the fruit of her 


Is Lust and Defiance, a fiend who is stronger than man, 
A demon whom men cannot bind nor Heaven shall ban. 
And the dwelling accurst is afraid of the deadly twins, 
For their visage is dark with the shade of the primal sins. 
But Justice abideth bright in the smoky cot, 
In the righteous is her delight, with the just her lot, 
And she holdeth her eyes aloof from the smirched gilt, 
From the pride of the sinner's roof, that his hands have 


She disdaineth the power and praise that is miscreate. 
With the just is her home, and her ways are the ways 

of Fate. 



(Agam. 1489-1496) 

OH my liege, in vain our crying ! 

Loyal hearts their speech forget, 
While thou liest foully dying, 

Writhing in that spider's net 

Bed of shame ! Disgraceful prison ! 

Liest there, a king unmade, 
Where the crafty hands of Treason 

Smote thee with its cruel blade. 



(Choeph. 152-164) 

TEARS for our master, 

Pious oblation, 

Perishing tears for a perished lord ! 
They shall outlast her 

Idle libation, 

Guiltily offered for guilt abhorred. 
Tears ! let the gentle shower beat 
On this thy last forlorn retreat. 

Spirit of power, 

Wake in thy giant 
Might as a war-god, strong to save ! 
Wake in this hour, 

Handsel thy pliant 

Scythian bow or thy trenchant glaive ! 
Worshipful champion, from the gloom 
Of thy sad heart give heed, and come ! 



Prologue, 1-39 

THE painted or * shaded ' background represented in 
this and the next play the front of the royal palace 
at Argos, in the last play the shrines of the Delphic 
Apollo and Athena Polias ; the locality was indicated, 
without change of the ' scenery,' by means of altars 
(Agam. 513) and statues (Agam. 520, Io8i; Eumen. 
23 5), and the introduction of the tomb in the Choephoroe. 
There were two (or possibly three) doors ; one on the 
spectator's left was supposed to lead to the hall (megaron) 
of the palace, another on the right to the women's 
apartments (Choeph. 878). The left parados (side- 
passage) was for persons coming from abroad, those 
coming from the town entered from the right. On a 
platform representing the roof of the palace the watch- 
man appears. The time is night. The watchman's 
soliloquy constitutes the prologue, or first scene pre- 
ceding the entrance of the Chorus. 

1 The watch had been kept from the beginning of 
the tenth year of the siege, as Calchas had predicted the 
capture of Troy in that year (//. ii. 329 ; Od. iv. 526). 
To the ignorant watchman it is nothing more than 
a troublesome woman's whim (n). 3 Lit. 'couched 
in the roofs embrace ' ; so Dr. Verrall explains this 



grotesque phrase. The received rendering, Meaning 
head on arm,' is very doubtful. 7 The great constella- 
tions are said to ' bring ' the seasons marked by their 
rise or setting. 8 The succession of signals is compared 
to the military watchword (< symbol ') passed along the 
line. 15 He is kept awake by the threat of death as 
the penalty for falling asleep at his post. l7 A homely 
metaphor from simples, cf. Choeph. 359. 23 The 
beacon-fire on mount Arachnae (in the direction of 
Epidaurus) is now supposed to be seen. 24 Aeschylus 
makes Argos, the Dorian capital, the city of Aga- 
memnon, against the Homeric tradition, to which 
Sophocles adhered (Elect. 9), that he " ruled from 
Mycenae over all Argos (the country) and many 
islands'" (//. ii. 101). Cf. Choeph. 4. It was now 
convenient to forget the name of Mycenae, as it had 
been ruthlessly destroyed ten years before this (B.C. 
468) by the Argives, with whom the Athenians were 
on friendly terms (Eumen. 762 ff.) 29 The verb (from 
orthrosy ' dawn ') implies that the early morning is in 
itself auspicious for the women's chant. 33 The Greeks 
played with three dice ; the best throw (' Aphrodite "") 
was when all three fell with the 6 uppermost, the 
worst (' the dog ') when all showed the figure i. Cf. 
Choeph. 967. The vulgar metaphors here and 1. 36 
are characteristic of the speaker, like his rough humour 
(3, 31). Though merely a house-servant he is loyally 
devoted to his master. His speech in its tone of surly 
discontent (i i) and its innuendos reflects the hatred and 
suspicion surrounding the queen. 36 Theognis employs 
the same metaphor, signifying an enforced and stub- 
born silence : " An ox stamping on my tongue with 
heavy foot checks my prating, albeit I know. 1 " 1 The 


proverb may have been suggested by an ox trampling 
a snake under foot. This beast, however, was an 
emblem of silence ; cf. Alciphron : " Not though an 
ox were to speak to me, as the saying is." The Spar- 
tans appear to have applied the same idea in their 
ritual. " They sacrificed an ox to Ares after a victory 
gained by artifice, and the noisy cock when victorious 
by force" (Plutarch, Instt. Lac. 25, cited by J. F. 
Davies). The corresponding polite metaphor is that 
of a key or a seal on the tongue, e.g. Sophocles, Oed. 
Col. 1052. 

Parodus, 40-257 

The prologue is followed by a parodus, commenced 
by the Leader chanting with the Chorus in procession. 
The term (properly denoting the ' entrance "* chant in 
anapaestic measure) was applied to ' the first song of 
the whole chorus,' as Aristotle defines it (Poet. 12). 
The interval between night and day is now supposed 
to have passed. 

41 The legal terms imply that Agamemnon had a 
divine commission to punish Priam ; cf. 449, 744, and 
the judicial language, 534 ff. 43 Cf. 109. The brothers 
were closely united as having inherited the neighbour- 
ing thrones of Argos (or Mycenae) and Sparta, and 
by their common marriage connection (their wives 
being both daughters of Leda), which bound Aga- 
memnon to undertake the war for the recovery of 
Helen. Professor Lewis Campbell argues that, as the 
poet is silent concerning Sparta as well as Mycenae, the 
words here and 1. 400 should be taken literally as 
meaning that the brothers ruled jointly at Argos and 
kept house together. But such a contradiction of the 


Epic story is hardly likely. Stesichorus and Pindar 
made Amyclae Agamemnon's city ; his tomb and that 
of Cassandra were shown there. 52 A metaphor fami- 
liar in English poetry : e.g. Southey describes a bird as 
1 oaring with slow wing her upward way. 1 5 ' The 
Greek word may mean only < joint tenants of the 
sky, 1 or ' emigrants,' but to an Athenian audience it 
would rather denote settlers in a foreign city ; cf. 
Eumen. ion, where the reconciled Furies are so de- 
scribed as strangers domiciled at Athens. The birds 
of the air are regarded as settlers in the city of Zeus 
(the sky). Aristophanes in the Birds reverses the pic- 
ture, making them build a city for themselves in the 
sky so as to intercept the offerings from the earth. 
As the domiciled foreigners had their * patrons ' among 
the citizens, so the birds are entitled to protection 
from their patron, Zeus (56). Apollo is their guardian 
as the god of augury (interpreting the signs sent from 
Zeus by the birds), Pan as a rustic god. The latter 
had recently been installed at Athens out of gratitude 
for his aid in routing the Persians at Marathon (Pausan. 
i. 28) ; a sudden * panic ' in battle was ascribed to the 
' Aegipans." 1 59 ' Erinys ' here reverts to its earlier sense, 
the personified curse the malison which protects the 
humblest. According to a Greek proverb, " even dogs 
have their Erinyes." 61 Paris. K The word denotes 
especially the sacrifice before marriage. It is applied 
here to the combat as part of Helen's bridal-rite, and 
still more boldly to the launching of the ships (226) 
for her recovery. Euripides (Iphig. in Aul. 723) has 
a similar but less obscure play on the word in the 
scene at Aulis, where Clytemnestra asks Agamemnon : 
" Hait thou already made the sacrifice *br the maiden 


to the goddess (Hera) ? " He replies that he is just 
setting about it (the sacrifice of the maiden to Arte- 
mis). Cf. Vergil, jEn. viii. 1 8. 70 Another rendering 
is ' the vengeance of the fireless rites, 1 i.e. those of 
the Furies, who need no sacrificial fire, but consume 
the victim with their own breath [L. Campbell]. 
With an emendation [Casaubon] in 1. 69 the sense is : 
" He (Paris) shall not coax the angry, reluctant sacri- 
fice that will not burn, though he stirs the embers 
and pours oil beneath "" ; that is, the gods refuse his 
sacrifice. 74 The Chorus apparently constitute the 
' Council,' which is mentioned 1. 884. 80 An allu- 
sion to the riddle of the Sphinx, which is quoted by 
Athenaeus from Asclepiades (circ. B.C. 349) in the 
following form : " There is a thing on earth having 
one voice, but 'tis two-footed and four-footed and 
three-footed in turn ; changeful like none other that 
walketh the earth or goeth in the air or on the sea ; 
when the feet that support it are most in number, 
then hath it least agility." That this enigma had 
come down with the Sphinx legend from the Epic 
period appears from Hesiod, Works^ 531, where a 
beast going on three legs is likened to a 'man on 
three feet.' The solution is given by a scholiast in 
some verses of uncertain date : " 'Tis Man, born a 
babe on four feet, leaning in old age on a staff, that 
is, a third foot."" 83 The handmaids now appear, and 
altars are perhaps kindled in front of the palace. The 
queen has sent materials everywhere from the royal 
closet, oil and incense and costly Oriental unguents, 
to make a great display of rejoicing. Zeus (Eumen. 
973) and Hermes presided over the 'agora, 1 the centre 
of the city-life. 94 The poet, an Eleusinian, lavishes 


his gorgeous imagery in ornate descriptions of ritual 
(cf. Pers. 6 1 1 ff.). x The word (pelanos) is also used 
of offerings in which oil was the chief ingredient, 
combined with honey or milk : cf. Choeph. 150. Oil 
had a peculiarly sacred office, as in the service of the 
Temple at Jerusalem (Levit. ii.) and in the earlier 
Hebrew ritual (Gen. xxxv. 14). 107 Mr. E. D. A. 
Morshead suggests a different interpretation : " Still 
upon me doth the divine life, whose strength waxes 
never old, breathe from heaven the impulse of song." 
See the preface to his admirable translation of the 
Trilogy, entitled * The House of Atreus. 1 116 An 
augural term : the birds were seen on a rock on the 
right (spear-hand). The omen was confirmed by the 
coincidence that two appeared together, bent on the 
same quest, though of different breed. The black 
eagle was renowned for strength, and is called in 
Homer "the hunter, strongest at once and swiftest 
of all fowls " ; the * white-tailed ' is described by 
Aristotle as the largest kind. The incident which 
the poet imagines is depicted on a Sicilian coin, sym- 
bolising a victory (see the illustration). Tacitus (Hist. 
i. 62) records a real case. m A refrain of Semitic 
origin (Hebr. helil-na^ ' weep '). It was associated 
with passionate wailing, though the 'Linos' song 
named from it was sung at the harvest-home (//. xviii 
570) and at feasts. 122 Vulg. 'twain and diverse in 
temper ' ; this is explained by the contrast between 
the imperious Agamemnon and Menelaus, who says 
of himself (//. xxiii. 612), "my heart was never over- 
weening nor obdurate." 14 Artemis was worshipped 
under this title (Pausan. viii 35, 8). As a huntress 
she was jealous for her own preserves ; as the moon- 


goddess, concerned with birth and nurture, she pro- 
tected all young life. Sophocles, but not Aeschylus, 
makes use of the story that Agamemnon offended 
her by killing a doe within her sacred precinct. As 
a champion of Troy, like Apollo her brother, she 
sought to stop the Greek expedition. 151 Through 
the twofold meaning of the Greek word, the horror 
of the sacrifice is brought out in epithets contrasting 
it with the domestic banquet, at which the family 
met in love. It is unsanctioned ; none may partake 
of it (i.e. of the remainder of the sacrificial offerings) ; 
it breeds feud (not love) and infidelity. 155 First the 
'Thyestean feast" 1 (1242), then the slaughter of Iphi- 
geneia. Agamemnon was driven by At6 to repeat 
the very act of his father ; the blood of his daughter 
was the atonement required by the Erinyes haunting 
the house (1186) for the blood of the other children. 
165 There was a fear of misnaming the gods : cf. 
Plato, Crat. 400 E. m Three falls gave the victory 
in wrestling. l79 Cf. 250. The poet gives a deeper 
spiritual meaning to the old adage, ' a fool is taught 
by experience,' which came down through Homer 
and Hesiod (Works, 218). 18 The metaphor is pro- 
bably from a bleeding wound rather than from tears, 
as rendered in the metrical translation. A similar 
conception of the divine influence is expressed by 
Cleanthes, the Stoic (transl. by Archdeacon Cheetham): 

" O Zeus and Destiny, may I be led 
By you along the way that I should tread : 
I follow quick ; but if with recreant will 
I fain would linger, I must follow still." 

1K) The narrowest part of the Euripus (Negroponte) 
opposite Chalcis in Euboea, where the surge was 


mistaken for a tide recurring seven times in the day ! 
193 The w ind from this region of the northern Aegean 
was called 'Strymonian'' ; it would hinder the Greek 
ships in their northward voyage. Cf. 654. D2 So 
Achilles in anger throws his sceptre on the ground, 
//. i. 245. 228 Lit. 'life,' but cf. Horn. Hymn to 
Hermes, 42, where the god * pierces out the life of a 
tortoise,' i.e. severs the life-breath in the throat (cf. 
ibid. 1 1 9). 239 A saffron robe (krokotos) was part of 
a woman's finery (cf. Eurip. Phoen. 1491). It is a 
pathetic reminder of the home, whence the maiden 
had been torn. The legend is taken for granted, 
viz. that she was brought to Aulis on the pretext 
of betrothing her to Achilles. Lucretius (i. 80 ff.), 
following Euripides (Iphig. in dul.\ marks the contrast 
between the impious rite and the marriage cere- 
monies which were denied to her. For him the 
crime was a warning against priestly ' religion "" ; for 
Dante (Paradiso, 5) a warning against rash oaths, hav- 
ing its parallel in Jephthah's sacrifice of his daughter. 
241 The painter Timanthes, whose presentation of 
this scene was famous, laid stress on the fathers 
grief: Agamemnon stood apart with his head covered 
(Pliny, N. H. 35, 10), as in Eurip. 1. c. 1550. This 
is imitated in a relief on a vase in the Uffizi palace 
at Florence bearing the name of Cleomenes, and in 
a Pompeian wall-painting preserved in the Museo 
Borbonico, Naples. [See illustration.] The picture 
may well have been inspired by Euripides. It assumes, 
as he does, the miraculous rescue by means of a fawn. 
Timanthes, of Cythnus and Sicyon, was one of the 
earliest successors of Zeuxis, by whose genius Greek 
painting was brought to its maturity. Aeschylus' 


' picture ' is imaginary ; but he frequently shows his 
appreciation of painting and sculpture (418, 801, 
1329, Eumen. 50, 294). 246 Cf. 146. The paean 
in its primitive form was probably a medical incan- 
tation addressed to the old god of healing, Paieon (//. 
v. 401), the word itself being the refrain, 'O Healer !' 
(cf. Soph. Philoct. 1 68). As the Bacchic cry euoi 
(meaning unknown) was translated into a name of 
the god (Euios), so the Healer was called ietos or, 
with loss of iota, e'ios and lepaieon, and the latter word 
sometimes denoted the chant, like paian. But when 
Apollo superseded the earlier god (taking even his 
title eioSy II. xv. 356), the chant was developed into 
a song of victory (//. xxii. 394) and ultimately into 
a hymn of praise or thanksgiving, not always ad- 
dressed to Apollo. Here the paean belongs to Zeus 
as guardian or 'saviour' of the house, and the poet 
supposes it to have been sung at domestic banquets 
by the king's young daughter, as it might have been 
in the patriarchal age of Greece, to accompany the 
last libation. Three libations were poured after that 
to the ' good genius, 1 which closed the meal : the first 
to the Olympian gods, the second to the heroes, the 
third (cf. Choeph. 245) to Zeus. - 56 According to 
Argive tradition (Aesch. SuppL 260 ff.) the Pelopon- 
nese was called Apia from a King Apis, the son of 
Phoroneus. The name is explained by E. Curtius 
as meaning * water-girt "" ; cf. Messapia, ' the land be- 
tween the waters.' 

First Episode, 258-354. 

265 True t o her name (euphrone, ' kindness '). 
274 Zeus might have sent a delusive dream to her, as 


to Agamemnon (//. ii. 6). 276 Vague, idle ; the reverse 
of the Homeric * winged words, 1 as Aeschylus under- 
stood the phrase. 282 The word (of Persian origin, 
cf. S. Matth. v. 41) denoted properly a Persian 
mounted postman. Herodotus (viii. 98) conversely 
compares the Persian courier-post to the Greek torch- 
race : the riders being posted at intervals of a day's 
journey on horseback, "the first delivers the message 
to the second, the second to the third, and so it is 
passed on." The poet's idea may have been sug- 
gested by the fact (Herod, ix. 3) that Mardonius 
proposed, when he took possession of Athens, to 
announce the event to Xerxes at Sardis by fire- 
signals from island to island. 283 It is called by 
Sophocles a * headland of the deep ' : there is such 
a projecting bluff on the eastern coast of the island, 
from which a beacon on Ida would be just visible, the 
distance being about 70 miles. It was said that the 
sun setting behind Mt. Athos, which rises nearly 
7000 feet above the sea, cast the shadow of the peak 
on the back of a certain bronze ox in Lemnus, a 
distance of about 50 miles. 289 A mountain of 
Euboea ; its situation is not certain, but Athos is 
90 miles from the nearest point of the island ! A 
bonfire lighted on the Malvern hills in 1856 was 
visible from a hill near Aylesbury, 70 miles off 
(Paley). 293 On the Boeotian side of the Euripus 
overlooking Anthedon, near which was the home of 
the sea-god Glaucus. From this height the beacon- 
fire passes southward over Thebes to Mt. Cithaeron 
and thence, skirting a bay of the Corinthian gulf 
(' Gorgopis '), to the promontory Aegiplanctus ; then 
it traverses the isthmus and the intervening headlands 


of the Saronic gulf to Mt. Arachnae in Argolis, about 
20 miles east of Argos. (See C. S. Merriam, Classical 
Rev. v.) 312 The nocturnal torch-race, to which the 
succession of beacon-fires is likened, was familiar in 
Greece and especially at Athens, where it was held 
in honour of Athena and Hephaestus, as patrons of 
mechanical art, and of Prometheus ; the torches were 
kindled at an altar common to the two gods. Pau- 
sanias (i. 30) refers to the race as one between 
individual runners. But the older contest was that 
in which the torch was handed on from one to 
another of several runners stationed at intervals ; 
the competition was between bands of young ath- 
letes representing the different tribes and regularly 
trained at the expense of the gymnasiarchs. [See 
the illustration, which represents a victorious squad 
headed by two elderly officials ; the foremost (the 
trainer ?) holds the torch and makes an offering to 
the goddess Bendis, the Thracian Artemis, in whose 
honour the race has been held.] In each line of 
runners the torch was carried by the first till he was 
overtaken by the second and fell out ; the second 
gave it up to the third and so on, till the last of 
one set arrived at the goal and received the prize 
for his tribe from the Archon Basileus. At Olympia 
a short race was run with torches to an altar on 
which wood was to be lighted ; the priest standing 
by gave a crown to the runner who was first to 
touch it with his torch. Hence it is conjectured that 
the race had its origin in some religious usage, pro- 
bably the renewal of the sacred altar-fire, in which 
swiftness was essential, when the fire had to be con- 
veyed from a distance, in order to preserve its purity. 


Thus, when the Plataeans, after the repulse of the 
Persian invasion, put out the fire in their temples as 
having been polluted, and sent to Delphi for fresh 
fire, a citizen deputed for the purpose is said to have 
brought it running with such speed that he fell dead 
(Plutarch, Aristeides^ ch. 20). Mr. J. G. Frazer sup- 
poses that the idea was that of scattering light on the 
earth to fertilise it. 3U Lit. l the victor is he who 
ran first and last,' i.e. the fire-god, who carried the 
torch himself unaided from beginning to end. This 
explanation [L. Campbell] is probable, though Heph- 
aestus is described at the outset rather as the 'starter' 
of the race. 31G For the watchman the signal was a 
* symbol ' in the military sense ; for Clytemnestra it 
was a * symbol ' arranged between Agamemnon and 
herself : that is, he had sent her the message by agree- 
ment on the night of the victory. (Cf. note on 
1. 898.) But how are we to explain his arrival so 
soon afterwards ? (279). Suppose that he started early 
in the day, leaving instructions for the bonfires to 
be lighted at nightfall, the long voyage from Troy 
and the shipwreck are crowded into twenty -four 
hours at the most. According to Verrall, we are to' 
understand that the queen had secret information 
some days before, that Troy had fallen and the 
king was on his way home, her pretended fire- 
message being merely a ruse improvised to put off 
and bewilder the loyal elders. But such complica- 
tions are not in keeping with the simplicity of a 
Greek tragedy, and the slight hints of a plot within 
the Council which he discovers (e.g. 352) would not 
have sufficed to give the audience the requisite clue. 
Cf. 890. The soldiers are breakfasting in the 


houses at hap-hazard, not in the orderly fashion or 
the meals in camp (//. xi. 730, "we took supper in 
ranks throughout the camp"). The Greek phrase 
suggests a contrast with a public entertainment, when 
the citizens were entertained in the streets, as at the 
Apaturia, or with a distribution of meat after a great 
public sacrifice, as at the Athenian Panathenaea, when 
the citizens were assembled for the purpose accord- 
ing to their demes (see C. T. Newton, 'Essays on 
Archaeology,' p. 173 f.). Clytemnestra's eager imagi- 
nation betrays, the secret hope that the army will 
rush into those excesses, of which the herald coarsely 
boasts (526). Even in the Homeric age these were 
believed to bring disaster; see Od. iii. 150 f. The 
sentiment is fully developed in the post- Homeric 
legend regarding the fate of the Locrian Ajax, which 
was part of the Iliupersis : he was killed by the light- 
ning-bolt of Athena as a punishment for dragging 
Cassandra from her altar, and his sin was visited even 
on his people, the Locrians, in pestilence. This story 
is assumed in the present drama, where Agamemnon 
brings back Cassandra among his captives. The storm 
presently described is that in which Ajax perished. 
344 The voyage to and from Troy is compared to 
the double course (diaulos), in which the racers turned 
the goal (nussa) and ran back to the starting- place 
(aphesis). 346 In these boding words Clytemnestra 
speaks to her hearers of the dead who had fallen on 
the Greek side, to herself of her murdered child. 
362 Verrall assigns this speech with 501 f. to a partisan 
of the queen pretending acquiescence (the tone being 
markedly at variance with that of the Chorus, 483 
ff.), and the lines which follow to a body of con- 
spirators among the Elders. Cf. 1344. 



First Stasimon, 355-487. 

This term (properly a * stationary "* song, as distinct 
from the * entrance ' chant) denoted the regular choral 
ode intervening between two episodes or ' acts. 1 
The ode is introduced by a short anapaestic pas- 
sage (355-66) and followed by an epode (475-87), 
which leads back to the action : Wecklein regards 
this as a dialogue between two of the Elders. 3G4 Am- 
plified after the poet's fashion from a simple proverbial 
expression, * to shoot sky-high,' of wasted effort. 
385 The sinner is blinded insensibly by a lying spirit, 
the offspring of his infatuation (Ate). 393 Another 
proverbial phrase, found also in Plato, for wasted 
labour or vanity. 40 The plural is conventional and 
does not imply a joint household ; the loneliness of 
Menelaus, sitting apart in stony grief (412), rather 
suggests the contrary. 409 Here and 1. 1099 (' we seek 
no prophet,' to tell the story of the house) the word 
denotes those through whom the house speaks, its 
confidential advisers and remembrancers. The Elders 
themselves claim something of this authority or in- 
spiration (107). The poet provides this somewhat 
indefinite substitute for the minstrel who, in the 
Homeric story (Od. iii. 267), was left in charge ot 
the house. 42 Visions which come to mourn with 
him ; cf. Tennyson, 'In Memoriam,' Ixviii. 437 The 
war-god is likened to a gold-merchant. He holds the 
scale, not over the counter but in the battle-field ; 
he takes good bodies and gives in exchange to the 
kinsmen not gold-dust but dust from the pyre, which 
weighs light in the hands but heavily on the heart. 
455 The corpses which are not burnt and sent home 


in urns are interred in the hostile land. Burial and 
cremation were both known at Athens ; the former 
had prevailed as late as B.C. 700, and was again, though 
less commonly, practised. That Agamemnon's body 
was buried is proved by Clytemnestra's language (872) 
and the mutilation (Choeph. 439). Cf. Septem c. Theb. 
949. In the Homeric picture the tomb is merely the 
earthen barrow built on the spot, wherein the urn is 
deposited. 47 This is the notion of the 'evil eye" in 
another form ; cf. 947. 

Second Episode, 488-680. 

494 They infer that Agamemnon's ship has arrived ; 
the ship itself would be crowned with olive as well as 
the messenger, in token of gratitude for the accom- 
plishment of the voyage. Similarly a deputy (theoros] y 
going to or returning from the Delphic oracle, wore 
a wreath of laurel (e.g. Fabius Pictor, Livy xxiii. n). 
495 Lit. * the dry dust, sister of the bordering mud ' : 
Verrall suggests that this familiarly describes the plain 
between Argos and the sea, boggy on the western, 
and parched on the eastern side. Otherwise the dust 
may be that raised by Agamemnon^s train approaching. 
8 This word, which he presently utters, is itself the 
announcement of success. 61 Apollo, worshipped in 
the Troad, was on the Trojan side (//. i. 53), but he 
is now besought to befriend Argos, where his Dorian 
cult had its early home. The epithets describe the 
Dorian god in his beneficent character, * saving ' in- 
stead of destroying, ' healing ' instead of plaguing. 
613 From Suppl. 228, where the scene is at Argos and 
the same three gods are worshipped at one altar, it 


may be inferred that there was such a ' common altar 1 
in front of the palace, to which the herald here turns. 
515 The herald's person was sacred from this association. 
519 The ancestral stone chairs (260) at the door of the 
palace, cf. Od. iii. 406. 52 There were images guard- 
ing the entrance (propyla] and facing eastwards. In 
Soph. Elect. (1375), Orestes, entering the palace, bows 
before them as the gods of his father. Here, as the 
herald comes up by the eastern road, they confront 
him with eyes responsive to the rising sun. 541 He 
sheds tears as he speaks, kneeling on the ground. 
555 The soldiers, when they were not on night duty, 
slept on board the ships, which were drawn up on 
shore in the naval camp protected by a rampart 
(//. vii.), the beds being on the gangways. Only the 
chiefs had] tents or * huts. 1 568 This ribald allusion 
to the listless dead, who 'will not even be at the 
trouble of rising up, 1 ominously recalls Clytemnestra's 
foreboding (346). 57 The chiefs now ' winging their 
way ' over the seas with the Trojan trophies, which 
will be hung on the walls of Greek temples. 597 The 
incense was dropped on the fire so as to burn gradually. 
609 Valuables were sealed up, cf. Eurip. Orest. 107 (of 
Helen), Herod, ii. 121. There is also a veiled allusion 
to the seal of chastity, which she had broken. 612 Vulg. 
* I know as little of amours as of the dipping (temper- 
ing) of bronze, 1 not the dyeing of it, as there was 
no such process, the colour of bronze being varied 
only by means of gold or other alloy. 615 The actor, 
perhaps, significantly touched his ears (the 'clear 
interpreters '). 642 Ares is depicted as a warrior urging 
his chariot amid the carnage with a two-lashed whip 
(cf. Choeph. 374) and brandishing his two spears (the 


ordinary number). The 'twofold 1 team, &c., sug- 
gests the havoc dealt on both sides together. 645 The 
poet's daring irony is felt in this phrase. The paean 
belonged least of all to these spirits of darkness and 
calamity. 65 I.e., the lightning conspired with the 
sea; cf. Milton, P.R. iv. 412, * water with fire in 
ruin reconciled. 1 eM We may compare the Greek 
sculptor's conception of Victory winged and alighting 
on the prow of a ship (as in the Nike of Paeonius), a 
symbol of success in a naval battle. To such figures, 
rather than to any Oriental source, the angel's wings 
of Christian art may be traced. 

Second Stasimon, 681-781. 

The first theme of this ode (the sin of Helen) fol- 
lows pertinently the herald's news of the disaster to 
Menelaus. 686 The poet regards her name (as though 
from he/-, l to destroy ') as prophetic and suggested by 
some god, like an oracle or a warning dream. Aias 
(Ajax) in Sophocles similarly dwells on the mournful 
import of his own name (' atai ' = ' alas ! '). The in- 
terpretation is sometimes obvious (e.g., Prometheus, 
Poly neices), cf. 1 006 and Choeph. 951. ' Odysseus ' (the 
name being connected with ' hate ') is explained, Od. 
v. 340, as a premonition of the enmity of Zeus, and 
likewise as having been given in hatred or revenge by 
Autolycus, his grandfather (ib. xix. 407). It is an 
odd coincidence that the name of * Helena ' was given 
by sailors at a later time to the destructive fire-ball, 
mistaken for a baleful star and supposed to be chased 
away by the friendly lights (' St. Elmo's fire ') playing 
harmlessly about the ship. The latter, appearing two 


together, were identified with Castor and Pollux, Helen's 
brothers (Pliny, N.H. ii. 17), though according to the 
more orthodox view she herself was ranked with them 
as a guardian of ships (Eurip. Orest. 1654, 1707). 
692 'Phis word personified generally the brute forces, 
which were quelled or controlled by the orderly power 
of Zeus. The cardinal winds were distinct in them- 
selves and their parentage from the ' unprofitable ' 
storm-winds (Hesiod, Theog. 870), being of l heavenly ' 
birth (children of Astraeus and Eos). But they be- 
longed to the family of Gaia ; accordingly they were 
sometimes represented (e.g., Boreas on the chest of 
Cypselus) as serpent-footed like the rebellious Giants, 
the serpent being the symbol of Earth. 6 " A play on 
the twofold meaning of the word (kedos), a marriage 
connection and domestic trouble or mourning. Here 
it may either denote Helen or the husband's kin. 
717 This simile is used by Statius, AchllL ii. 166 if., to 
describe Achilles, in his maiden's disguise, aroused by 
the sound of arms. 72 Cf. 65, but here the idea of 
a bridal rite disappears, leaving only the sense of a 
joyous beginning. 735 The priest (hiereus) in his office 
of slaughterer. Cf. 1235. 748 So in Virgil, Aen. ii. 573, 
Helen is called the * common Erinys ' of Troy and her 
country. 754 The old doctrine^of the divine jealousy 
(nemesis) waiting on prosperity is here embodied in 
metaphor : 'wealth, waxing adult, begets woe.' 
780 Lit. ' bearing a false stamp of praise,' a metaphor 
from base coinage. The closing words, applicable to 
the guilty house of Atreus, serve as a prelude to the 
catastrophe, which now begins with the entrance 
of the king. 803 This allusion to the sacrifice of 
Iphigeneia rests upon a conjecture [Franz]. 


Third Episode, 782-974. 

Agamemnon has entered the orchestra (L.), drawn 
(by slaves ?) in a travelling chariot with Cassandra, as 
a prisoner. The queen subsequently appears from 
her door (R.), with handmaids. 

sis i jsjot f rom the tongue ' (of rival pleaders), but on 
the irrefragable witness of Ilion's sins. 817 The urn of 
acquittal (Eumen. 749) was empty ; only the hope or 
fancy of a ' hand ' ( = vote) drew near it. A con- 
jectural reading [Casaubon] gives the sense : ' hope 
filled not the urn but only approached the brim (lip) ' ; 
compare the Hesiodic picture (JVorks^ 96) of the jar ot 
Pandora, where " Hope alone tarried, within the strong 
abode, beneath the lips of the jar." 824 A grim, sarcastic 
allusion to the ' wooden ' horse. This obvious inter- 
pretation is set aside by Verrall, who supposes the horse 
to have been typical of Argos, having been created 
there, according to the local legends, by Poseidon. 
Cf. Septetn c. Theb. 462. 82tt As the cosmic setting of 
the Pleiades (Nov. 3) marked the close of the sailing 
season (Hesiod, Works, 618 ff.), this date is probably 
adopted to account for the shipwreck. Tzetzes, fol- 
lowing the same tradition, criticised Tryphiodorus, his 
predecessor, for describing the horse as crowned with 
flowers, as though the time had been spring. S28 That 
of Priam and his princely sons, Polites and Deiphobus. 
837 So Hippias (in Plutarch) : " The envious are troubled 
by others' good fortunes as well as by their own misfor- 
tunes." Socrates described envy as a festering wound 
and a saw in the heart. 841 Odysseus with his superior 
foresight shirked the expedition and feigned madness, but 
was detected by Palamedes. This legend was developed 


in the 'Cypria' (cf. Od. xxiv. 117) and used by 
Aeschylus in a tragedy, c Palamedes.' 845 This grand 
assembly (panegyris), like the allusions to the demos 
(883, 938), suggests the Athenian ecclesia rather than 
the Homeric agora, in which the princes were the 
speakers. 849 The two forms of surgical treatment 
in cases too bad for simples ; the former appears in 
metaphor (fora drastic or violent cure), cf. Choeph. 537. 
855 The queen re-enters with her attendants, cf. 908. 
862 The regal chair, cf. 260. 865 This rendering [O. 
Marbach, L. Campbell] implies that Clytemnestra has 
heard of Agamemnon's amours (cf. 1349) ; it may be 
supposed that she casts a vindictive glance on Cas- 
sandra. 872 An image suggested by the Homeric phrase, 
' to put on a clothing of earth ' = ' to be buried.' For 
Geryoneus, the triple-bodied giant slain by Heracles, 
see Hesiod, Theog. 287 ff. 881 Strophius, king of 
Phocis, dwelt at Crisa at the foot of Parnassus ; 
his son was Pylades, the friend of Orestes. (For 
another tradition see Pausan. ii. 29.) In the original 
legend Orestes was only sent away after the murder. 
890 Several editors, following Wellauer, interpret the 
words as referring to the beacon-fires (compared to 
torches, 1. 22). This would furnish additional evi- 
dence, if it were needed, that Agamemnon was a 
party to the signalling, though the pre-arrangement 
is quite clearly implied from the outset. But the phrase 
used here (lit. * holding of torches ') may denote the 
lights in Clytemnestra's chamber, originated, as Con- 
ington thinks, by the custom of torches held up by 
slaves, which suggested the Homeric picture of golden 
youths holding torches in the palace of Alcinous (Od. 
vii. 100). Verrall refers it to the lighting of the 


king to bed, for which Clytemnestra waits in vain. 
897 The strong rope attached from the mast-head to 
the bow. 9n She means the house of Hades. The 
words 'justice 1 and 'justly' have, except for her, an 
innocent meaning the justice which ordered his 
victorious return. 914 Clytemnestra was the daughter 
of Tyndareus (83) and Leda ; Helen was the child of 
the latter by Zeus. 92 She kneels with her head bent 
toward the ground, an attitude essentially un-Greek, 
like kissing the ground by way of obeisance. Her 
motive is to excite popular prejudice as well as to bring 
nemesis upon him. 929 Another version of the same 
maxim is quoted by Herodotus (i. 32) as a saying of 
Solon to Croesus. 933 A taunt : ' did you vow in fear 
to forego all pomp ? ' 948 He hopes to mitigate the 
offence by walking barefoot, but still feels that the 
precious stuffs (used properly for solemn festivities) are 
profaned. 954 According to heroic usage, cf. Horn. 
//. i. 167. 96 The finer 'sea-purple' (946) was 
obtained from the juice of the murex, which was 
found off the coast of Laconia as well as in the Phoe- 
nician waters (Pausan. iii. 21, cf. Ezek. xxvii. 7). 
The bright crimson dye was ' fast,' but otherwise the 
colour was restored by drying in the sun ; the poet 
dwells on this quality and on the costliness of the dye 
(' renewable, precious as silver '). The royal palace, as 
in the East, would contain a store of dyed garments, 
carpets and hangings ; such were among the chief spoils 
which fell to a conqueror, e.g. Alexander the Great. 
Cf. Choeph. 1013. The manufacture is fully described 
by Kenrick, ' Phoenicia, 1 ch. viii. 972 The lord of 
the house is teleios as in chief authority, cf. Choeph. 
652. Zeus is teleios in a higher sense ; his authority 


overrules in conflicting issues and determines finally 
what shall be. Agamemnon has just entered the 
house ; Clytemnestra remains and prays with uplifted 

Third Stasimon, 975-1034. 

980 Spitting was a means of averting any evil omen. 
990 A dirge (throws} or elegy was accompanied by tne 
flute ; the lyre was associated with the festal dance 
choros). Hence this strain of foreboding is a ' threnody 
of Erinys without the lyre' (cf. Eumen. 330) and 
4 unrehearsed, ' not like the solemn rhythmic chant 
* taught ' by the poet himself. " 2 The sensation of 
anxiety is described in physical terms as an eddying 
of the heart against the wall of the breast. Compare 
the similarly imaginative description of death-like 
pallor caused by fear (1121 if.). 1021 Incantation was 
used to staunch wounds, e.g. Horn. Od. xiv. 457, 
cf. Prom. V. 487. But, the poet says, it cannot re- 
store the blood of a slain man. 1024 Asclepius, son 
of Apollo, was struck by the lightning of Zeus, be- 
cause he brought back Hippolytus to life. 1026 One 
for the subject, another for the king. 

Fourth Episode, 1035-1448. 

Agamemnon has entered to prepare for the sacrifice 
by a lustral bath, which should purge him from the 
soil of war and travel. Clytemnestra meanwhile sum- 
mons Cassandra to take her place at the altar, where 
she will be installed in the household by participation 
in the washing of hands (Eumen. 626), the first part 
of the sacrificial rite in which all shared. 1041 The 
slave's fare is the 'cake' (maza), cf. Hesiod, 


442. Heracles was bound to service under Omphale, 
queen of Lydia, after he attacked the Delphic oracle 
[illustration No. n] for denying him counsel respect- 
ing his atonement for the murder of Iphitus. 1045 The 
poet expresses his aristocratic contempt for newly ac- 
quired wealth. Cf. Aristotle, Rhet. ii. 32. 105 Aris- 
tophanes similarly likens the barbarian speech to the 
twittering of swallows. The word barbaros itself 
suggests a discordant jargon. 1056 The altar of Zeus, 
as guardian of the house (Herkeios] and its property 
(Ktesios). It is regarded as the centre of the dwell- 
ing and called by an epithet elsewhere only used of 
the old altar of Delphi, the supposed centre of the 
earth. 1075 For the dirge is the opposite of the paean, 
which belonged to Apollo as the healer and Zeus as 
the saviour. Cf. the prologue of Euripides' Alcestis, 
where Thanatos reproaches this god for coming near 
a corpse. 10S1 The name * Apollon ' was ambiguous, 
like Helene (686); it might be interpreted 'destroyer' 
(cf. Archil, fr. 27 Bergk.). His title *god of ways' 
(Agyieus) was connected, according to the gram- 
marians, with his office as guardian of the house, 
which was symbolised by a conical pillar outside the 
door. (For such an unwrought image, found in 
Corcyra, see Mitt. Ath. 19, 340.) This suggests 
Cassandra's taunt, and the pillar itself may have been 
shown : Pollux indeed refers to it as a regular orna- 
ment of the stage. The same inference may be 
drawn from the addresses and prayers to Apollo in 
the Electro of Sophocles, where he would be invoked 
as having brought Orestes on his way home. So 
Polyneices takes leaves of him when quitting his 
father's home, Eurip. Phoen. 631. nn She sees dimly 


something spread out on Clytemnestra's arms ; pre- 
sently, discerning more clearly, she compares it to a 
net, but her words are incoherent from terror ; at 
last, just as Clytemnestra strikes, she realises that it 
is a robe (i 127). m7 The Erinyes, charged to avenge 
the dead children and Iphigeneia, will raise their 
infernal shriek (olo/ugmos, 587, 595) over the penal 
sacrifice (the death of Agamemnon), by which the 
house expiates its guilt. Death by stoning (as ap- 
pears from the few recorded examples) went with 
crime of the sacrilegious order. 1127 The horns are 
suggested by Clytemnestra's outstretched arms hold- 
ing up the robe, or possibly by the double crescent 
blade of the axe seen behind or through it (1149). 
ii35 The language reflects the Greek contempt for the 
vulgar kind of professional divination ; it no longer 
imposed on cultivated minds. 1144 The legend pur- 
ported to explain the wailing cry of the nightingale, 
with the fact that she and the swallow are chased by 
the hoopoe. The latter was said to have been a king, 
Tereus, whose wife (Philomela or Aedon) from 
jealousy of her sister (Procne) killed her child, Itys 
or Itylus ; cf. Od. xix. 518 ff., where the story as here 
illustrates a woman's grief. 116 The rivers of ' woe ' 
and 'wailing 1 in Hades. 1172 Her ear 'burns' with 
inspiration or, perhaps, with the strange music of the 
Furies'* chant (1187, cf. 1236), audible to her alone. 
According to the common rendering she predicts her 
' falling ' on the ground ; this use of the verb is 
peculiar, but it happens to occur in the Homeric 
description of Cassandra's death (Od. xi. 423), which 
may possibly have been in the poet's mind. 1179 A 
bride appeared unveiled on the third day after marriage 


(Becker, Charicles, p. 489) ; the ceremony of unveiling 
was an occasion for gifts. Cf. Choeph. 811. 1182 The 
metaphor is from a strong breeze at sea springing up 
toward dawn ; the oracle is the wind, the calamity 
which it brings to light is the surge rising higher and 
higher against the sky. 1190 The Erinyes are likened 
to a troop of revellers (komos) who, instead of passing 
by or serenading outside the house, have broken in 
and cannot be dislodged, being ' familiar 1 there : they 
bring about the reprisals within the kin, by which 
the curse of Thyestes is fulfilled. The burden of 
their chant is twofold (like the choral strophe and 
antistrophe), linking together Atreus 1 murder of 
Thyestes 1 children and the adultery of Thyestes with 
Atreus 1 wife, Aerope ( 1 1 93). Prometheus (Prom. V. 
860), like Cassandra, founds a claim to foreknowledge 
on his knowledge of the distant past. 1197 The reason 
of her insistency is found in the legend, which is thus 
outlined by Apollodorus (iii. 12, 5): "Apollo being 
desirous of Cassandra offered to impart his prophetic 
skill to her ; but after he had instructed her, she 
refused herself to him ; therefore he took away the 
credit from her soothsaying/ 1 Hence she demands a 
strict and solemn oath as in a court of justice, repeat- 
ing her entreaty to the last. The elder replies that an 
oath could not help her and might hurt him, being 
by its nature penal : the same word, ' pain/ is applied 
by Hesiod (Theog. 792) to the Styx, by which the 
gods swear. 1223 Aegisthus, the rightful avenger (1585). 
1233 c Amphisbaena, 1 a fabulous snake, ' moving both 
ways. 1 1335 As slaughtering a victim to Hades (cf. 735). 
Vulg. Hades-mother, 1 i.e. an infernal bacchanal [Con- 
ington]. 1248 * What I predict admits of no remedy. 


1257 The ambiguous epithet (Lukeios) would usually 
convey this meaning to Greek ears, though it is 
occasionally treated as from lukos, ' wolf (Sept. c. 
Theb. 131). 12G5 As a mantis in Apollo's service she 
carries a staff of laurel wood and a wreath (stemma) 
of laurel wrapped round with wool. The Homeric 
Chryses (//. i.), priest of Apollo, carries the stemma 
twisted about his staff, which is adorned with gold. 
Cassandra flings both on the ground, together with 
some other object (1266), perhaps an image of the god 
worn on her head or breast [Munro]. 127 According 
to Pollux, the seer wore a long straight-falling white 
chiton and a net-like woollen robe over it. She * sees ' 
the god (as Orestes * sees' the Furies) divesting her 
of it. 1277 The altar of Zeus (herkeios) in the palace ; 
Priam in Troy was slain at such an altar, and Cas- 
sandra had her special place there as a seer. 1298 It 
was a good omen, when the victim went quietly to 
the altar, as though under the god's control. 1324 Orestes. 
The concluding lines are assigned by some to the 
Elder. But the thought is in harmony with Cas- 
sandra's tone of unrelieved misery. 1332 A common 
Greek sentiment, cf. Herod, iv. 49, ' mortals are never 
sated with prosperity.' 

Fifth Episode, 1344-1448. 

This scene shows the dramatic difficulty arising 
from the conditions of the Greek stage, where the 
Chorus happens to be directly concerned in the action 
at a critical point. The hurried debate, however, 
is highly effective and indeed realistic. The Leader 
speaks first (1347) and last, proposing the discussion and 


reporting the decision of the majority. Of the others 
(see note on Eumen. 558) four give dilatory counsels. 
According to Verrall, these are conspirators trying to 
gain time, while those who denounce * tyranny "* are 
the loyalists, overpowered in the last scene by Aegis- 
thus and his guards. But the Chorus appear to 
be merely distracted, as in the Septan c. Theb. and 
Supp/ices, not divided as representing factions. The 
usurping nobleman or * tyrant ' in the Athenian sense 
would rather have a party in the populace. 1372 Pro- 
bably by withdrawing a curtain or * traverse, 1 the 
bodies of Agamemnon and Cassandra are now dis- 
closed, while Clytemnestra enters (R.) ; the former is 
covered with the purple web (Choeph. 991). 1408 As 
causing madness. 14n The punning assonance is 
characteristic; cf. 1461. The first verb recalls the 
axe (dikella^ hatchet), the second the sword (Choeph. 

Sy 1449-1576. 

The term Kommos (lit. ' lamentation ') was given 
to a mournful or impassioned lyrical passage divided 
between the Chorus and actor or actors. The lyrical 
passages are often broken by iambic or anapaestic lines ; 
the latter metre is used here by the Chorus-leader and 
by Clytemnestra in her responses. 1461 The strange 
punning phrase appears to refer to Helena, a < strong- 
built (cause of) strife "* ; but the text is corrupt. 1473 Or 
* he "" (the demon) ; so in the metrical version. 
1477 The Alastor of the house. The description 
suggests the primitive idea of the blood-sucking ghost, 
passing (after the poet's fashion) into the metaphor of 
a running sore. 148S It is not the demon working his 


own will ; it is the will of Zeus. 152 Following this 
speech is a sentence, so abrupt that it is usually rejected 
as an interpolation : < not ignoble, I deem, was his 
death. 1 This is assigned by Verrall to a conspirator, 
obtruding an apology for the murder. 154 The corpse 
is lying in a ' silver- walled ' bath. 1558 The river 
Acheron. 1569 A name, otherwise hardly known, for 
the house of Pelops. Pleisthenes seems to have been 
inserted by one tradition as a son of Atreus, murdered 
by his father. 

Exodus, 1577-1673. 

The scene following the final choral passage was 
termed the exodus (originally, a processional exit of 
the Chorus, such as that with which the Eumenides is 
closed). Aegisthus enters with a body-guard escorting 

1585 pj e ig nores the crime of Thyestes (i 193), which 
led to his banishment. 1592 In honour of his return 
from exile. Similarly, in the Homeric version, Aga- 
memnon was treacherously lured to a feast in pretended 
welcome on his landing from Troy. 1671 He is likened 
to the l bird that fights at home' (Eumen. 86 1) ; that 
is, he is afraid to fight abroad. 


Prologue, 121. 

THE architectural background is the same. The 
tomb of Agamemnon has now been introduced ; the 
audience, however, are expected to ignore the palace- 
front while the scene is at the grave (down to 1. 587) 
and vice versa. Orestes and Pylades enter by the left 
passage (as coming from abroad) and stand by the 
tomb. The procession of serving-maids forming the 
Chorus is followed by Electra ; the men, seeing them, 
retire (L.). The action is included in one day, the 
first episode in the early morning, the second not till 
evening (660). 

The prologue serves to explain the situation and to 
announce the impending vengeance (18). The first 
part (to 1. 10) is missing in the MSS. ; it has been 
restored from scholia and Aristophanes, Frogs, 1124-6, 
1170 f. 

1 The power of Zeus extends to the realm of Hades 
through Hermes, his son, to whom he has delegated 
the guidance of the departed spirits. A simpler inter- 
pretation is, ' who guardest my father's majesty ' in 
the world of the dead [Wilamowitz]. 4 The raised 
tomb or barrow, on which he lays his hand in speak- 
ing. There was, perhaps, a pillar on the tomb dedi- 
cated to Hermes (cf. Cicero, de Leg. ii. 26). 6 Orestes, 
now a youth of eighteen (Soph. Elect. 11-14), has 

161 L 


refrained from cutting the lock which, if he had 
dwelt at home, would have been offered to Inachus, 
the river-god of Argos (Agam. 24), in gratitude for the 
nurture of his young life. The local River not only 
supported the land, but was a source of physical health 
and strength. The personal offering implied a kind 
of bodily connection with the god. 8 The other lock, 
which he lays on the tomb, is a mourning token. 
We may compare the scene in the Iliad (xxiii. 148) 
where Achilles lays in the hand of his dead comrade 
Patroclus the lock which should have been dedicated 
to the river Spercheius, thereby pledging his bodily 
service to the dead, whom he was to avenge. At 
a regular funeral such tokens were displayed in front 
of the house. E.g.^ in the Alcesth the women remark 
that there are "no shorn locks laid at the door, such 
as are wont to be cut in mourning for the dead." 
An interesting parallel is found in the last scene 
of Sophocles' Ajax (1174), where son, wife, and 
brother offer locks of their hair to the dead hero. 
9 Cf. Eurip. Alcest. 767. The mourner's attitude 
is represented here by the outstretched arms, denot- 
ing the final leave-taking at the ' prothesis ' or lying- 
in-state. This was part of the ritual of burial, and 
appears frequently in funeral designs. [See illustra- 
tion.] 15 Drink-offerings to the dead or the infernal 
powers (e.g. the Erinyes) had the simple motive of 
feeding and appeasing them ; hence the term here 
used, which is derived from a verb meaning to 
4 soothe.' The play takes its name from the maidens 
carrying such an offering (chop) to Agamemnon. A 
libation to the celestial gods (spondf), consisting 
usually of wine, was not merely an offering but a 


consecration of the feast (Agam. 246), or a means 
of calling the gods to witness some solemn engage- 
ment : " no light thing is an oath and the blood of 
lambs and libations of pure wine and the plighting 
of our faith with clasped right hands" (//. iv. 157 ff.). 
Hence the term < spondee ' (spondelos) for the foot, 
composed of two long syllables, giving a slow and 
measured rhythm suitable for the accompaniment of 
a libation or of a hymn such as the festal ' paean ' 
(Agam. I.e.). See Schmidt, Rhythmic and Metric, 
p. 29. 

Parodus, 22-83. 

22 Clytemnestra had buried Agamemnon without 
funeral rites or the subsequent offerings at the tomb. 
Now, for her own security, she seeks to repair the 
latter omission by a drink-offering, and she has sub- 
jected Electra and her slave-women to the indignity 
of going through the mockery of a dirge, as a sub- 
stitute for the wailing which should have followed 
on his death. 24 Solon, according to Plutarch, at- 
tempted to restrain this usage : the women at fune- 
rals " were forbidden to tear themselves, and no hired 
mourner was to utter lamentable notes or to act any- 
thing else that tended to excite sorrow." But, as 
these ceremonies were of immemorial antiquity (cf. 
the Homeric epithet of a wife, ' with torn cheeks '), so 
they survived even in Plutarcrfs time. ^ This implies 
the Doric chiton with its full folds over the breast. 
32 The nightmare, or the cry which announced it, is 
strangely called a ' Phoibos.' Verrall suggests that 
the word, before it was appropriated to Apollo, may 
have had the general sense of an oracular spirit. He 


explains the name ' Phoibe ' (Eumen. 7) in the same 
way, not as a mere counterpart of that of the god, 
and regards the impersonal as the earlier meaning of 
4 Bacchus ' (e.g. l a Bacchus of Hades ' = ' one possessed 
by Hades '). Hermann conjectures ' phoitos,' a * delu- 
sion, 1 but the word is doubtful. 47 Some spell or for- 
mula of prayer dictated by Clytemnestra. 65 This is 
best understood as describing simply the incidence of 
justice, now sudden, now slow, not (as Borchard sug- 
gests) the contrasted fortune of Clytemnestra (in the 
sunshine), Orestes (in the twilight), Agamemnon (in 
the night of death). 67 Or ' for a warranty ' : Wila- 
mowitz observes that the word (titas) is used, in an 
inscription from Gortyn, in the sense of a guarantor 
for debts to the State. The general conception may 
be compared with that of the kinsman's blood * crying 
from the ground,' in Genesis iv. 10 : " cursed art thou 
(Cain) from the ground, which hath opened her mouth 
to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand." The 
stain upon the earth is called ' Ate ' (perdition), pur- 
suing the bloodguilty with physical as well as mental 
torment ; the earth is poisoned for him and her fruits 
turned to corruption. Cf. Eumen. 783, 804. 7l Scho- 
mann understands the l seats of the nymphs,' i.e. the 
spring-water. 7 It is nowhere indicated whether 
these women were captives brought from Troy with 
Cassandra or slaves of the house captured in earlier 
forays. The leader at least is older than Electra (171). 

First Episode^ 84-305. 

The action in this scene is distinct and concen- 
trated : the meeting of Orestes and Electra, followed 
immediately by the planning of vengeance. 


92 This is described in Sophocles, Electro 893, as 
4 ancestral, 1 the family burying-place. Electra per- 
forms all the acts of worship herself, standing at the 
tomb apart from, but near, the Chorus. She first sets 
one or more floral wreaths (93) on the pillar (stele) or 
the base of the mound. 95 A variation of the common 
formula, in which the worshipper asked a quid pro quo ; 
she bitterly substitutes ' evil ' for ' good ' in the closing 
words, which are uttered aside. 98 After the comple- 
tion of a rite of purification, the refuse (whatever it 
was into which the expelled ' alastor " was supposed to 
have escaped) was cast away with eyes averted for 
fear of meeting the evil spirit, or irritating him by 
appearing to watch his actions. Such spirits being 
under the control of Hecate, the earthenware censer 
used in purging a house (at Athens) was thrown out 
at the street corner, where her image stood. Theo- 
critus, Id. xxiv., describes a similar treatment of the 
snakes which attacked Heracles in his cradle ; they 
were burned, and a serving-maid flung away the dust 
without looking round. Even where there is no fear 
of malicious influence, the same motive appears. 
Odysseus is instructed to * turn away ' when he casts 
off the miraculous veil lent him by Leucothea, and to 
turn his back when the Ghosts approach him in 
Hades (Od. v. 350, x. 528). Cf. Soph. Oed. Col. 
490. The Roman rule of veiling the head during 
prayer and sacrifice is traced by Vergil (A en. iii. 405-7) 
to the fear of some * hostile presence, 1 i.e. some ill- 
omened sight which might displease the gods, or 
some enemy's eye which might vitiate the rite. This 
custom was strange to the Greeks ; but they, as well as 
the Romans, had the rule of silence during a sacrifice 


as a precaution against ill-omened sounds. 109 The 
metaphor suggests the primitive use of the tomb for 
sacrifices to the dead or to the Earth, their keeper, 
before the altar was developed from it. Herodotus, 
iv. 172, describes the Libyan Namasones as taking 
oaths in this very way, the tombs being those of 
the worthiest of their ancestors. m We may read 
Electra's thought : ' Slay the slayer ? ? Aegisthus, 
yes ; but dare I pray for my mother's death ? She 
begins to be conscious in herself of the struggle which 
awaits Orestes. 122 This primitive rule was accepted 
as the obverse of the duty of kindness to friends. It 
had the sanction of the gnomic poets ; e.g. Solon (p. 13, 
5) desires to be * bitter ' to his enemies. Only ex- 
treme vindictiveness is condemned as characteristic of 
the slave (Eurip. Ion, 1046, cf. inf. 268) or the barba- 
rian (Eurip. Medea, 809). 128 The word (from ku- y 
to conceive) is the same which is used in Eumen. 662 
of embryonic human life. This view of Earth as per- 
petually creating fresh germs of life was the starting- 
point of the doctrine of immortality engrafted on the 
Eleusinian cult of Demeter. 129 This offering (probably 
of water only) is strangely described by a word properly 
denoting the water for washing hands before a sacri- 
fice, or at a funeral (but only as preventing contagion, 
Eurip. Alcest. 100). U6 To avoid mixing a curse with 
a blessing, she ends as she began with a good prayer, 
the malediction being interposed. 15 She pours three 
times (129, 142) on the upper part of the mound (Soph. 
Elect. 894). That this was prescribed appears from 
Soph. Antlg. 431, where the heroine ' crowns ' her dead 
brother with a ' thrice-poured drink-offering,' and Oed. 
Col. 479 ff., where the Erinyes receive two libations 


from separate bowls filled with spring-water, and water 
mixed with honey from another bowl. The tradition 
may be traced back to the later Homeric age at least ; 
Odysseus in Hades (Od. x. 519) pours a triple offering 
* to all the dead,' consisting of honey with milk, wine, 
and (lastly) water. Cf. Eurip. Iphig. in Taur. 159 ff., 
Aesch. Pers. 610 ff. The term pe/anos, which Electra 
uses, 1. 92, may denote honey combined with water or 
milk. This, when thickened with oil, could be burned 
on the altar (Eurip. Ion, 707, cf.^gam.()6)^or mixed with 
meal and offered in the form of a cake. 151 Cf. Agam. 
645, but the word here is regretful rather than ironi- 
cal, bearing with it a presage of * healing ' and victory. 
155 The grave is called a ' fastness, 1 secure against good 
and ill alike. 161 The epithet (of Homeric origin) 
describes the recurved or S- shaped bow. Another 
Homeric epithet (168) refers to the girdle of the 
chiton as worn low on the hips, the dress falling 
over it in folds. m Electra is half distracted by 
her own doubts, half eager to prompt the other to 
utter the hope, which she will not allow herself to 
put in words, the more because such a * chance 1 pre- 
diction at an opportune moment would count as a 
favourable omen. 172 Electra's mask being that of a 
mourner, with close-cut hair (cf. Anthol. Pal. 7, 37), 
the spectators would at once see what she points to ; 
the Chorus-leader, however, is slow to guess till she 
gives a broader hint (176) : "the lock is very like my 
own " (or ' our own,' implying some marked pecu- 
liarity in the hair of the family, which would be 
noticeable in the wigs). 183 Lit. 'a surge of gall.' 
Wilamowitz rightly takes this in a quasi - medical 
rather than a metaphorical sense, implying a theory 


that gall is colder than blood and consequently chills 
the heart or liver (cf. 273), causing faintness. He 
explains from the same point of view the sudden 
pain in the heart, and the description of the tears 
as ' brackish ' (lit. l thirsty,' but there is a corre- 
sponding Pythagorean use of the word) and forced 
from the eyes as by physical anguish. 205 The evi- 
dence of the footprints has, of course, little weight 
except as against the presumption that the lock had 
merely been 'sent 1 (180). It adds something to her 
hope that the bringer (especially as he has visited the 
tomb with a companion) is Orestes. This moment 
of extreme suspense is skilfully chosen by the drama- 
tist to bring Orestes forward. 209 It is implied by 
the particular mention of the heel and ball (' tendon "") 
that Electra notices, not the dimensions, but the shape 
of the foot as compared with her own. As Wilamo- 
witz remarks, a foot with a high instep might be 
distinguished by the prints from a flat foot. 31 Pre- 
sumably an embroidered cloak which Electra had 
woven and sent to him at Phocis. This last token 
leaves no room for misgiving. The recognition, how- 
ever, is made to turn throughout on Electrons loving 
intuitions ; she divines first that Orestes has been at 
the tomb, and then (on that assumption) that the 
votive lock is his. Euripides, in the criticism which 
he foists into his own recognition scene (Elect, 
503 ff.), fails to understand these motives, and attri- 
butes gratuitous absurdities to the poet by assuming, 
e.g. that the ground was rocky, that Electra judged 
by the texture of the hair and the size of the feet, 
and that the garment was made for Orestes when a 
child. The question is discussed at length by Verrall 


(introduction and notes). 232 The inweaving of varie- 
gated designs is noticed in Homer (//. iii. 126 ff.). 
The hunting-scene here mentioned is best illustrated 
by vases (British Mus., First Vase Room) painted with 
friezes of beasts, real and fabulous, relieved by ros- 
ettes and other conventional ornaments. The batten 
(spathe) is a short piece of wood used to close up the 
threads in weaving. 24 A reminiscence of Andro- 
mache's address to Hector, //. vi. 429 ff. 242 That is, 
Iphigeneia, the only sister mentioned by Aeschylus : 
he does not notice Chrysothemis, who appears in the 
Electra of Sophocles, nor Iphianassa (identified with 
Iphigeneia by Lucretius, i. 85). 243 As the lawful 
head of the family. 245 The Saviour, Agam. 245. 
49 As the eagle strangling a snake was an omen or 
symbol of victory, the simile emphasises the ignominy 
of Agamemnon's defeat. 255 The ' Zeus-fostered' king 
was the sacrificer in chief ; but his standing before 
the gods is regarded here as dependent on his right to 
the royal title. The usurper Aegisthus might con- 
tinue the offerings, but Zeus would refuse them. 
The appeal to a god's interest in this matter is 
familiar in Homer, e.g. II. i. 40. 259 The eagle was 
the principal bird of omen, and the favourite mes- 
senger of Zeus (//. xxiv. 292). 

261 Lit. ' days when beeves are slaughtered, 1 the 
sacrifice being followed by a royal feast and a public 
distribution of the meat. Cf. Agam. 1592 (a sene- 
schal's day). 26S The funeral pile was made of pitch- 
pine, so as to burn more rapidly. 2T1 Apollo's warnings 
came in dreams at the eventful waking-hour (orthros y 
'dawn,' cf. Agam. 29). 275 According to a new inter- 
pretation [Verrall], the phrase describes Orestes not 


as indignant at the loss of his patrimony, but as in- 
dignantly refusing money penalties, which might be 
offered in compensation for the bloodshed : this is the 
question at issue in the Homeric trial-scene, //. xviii. 
497 ff. 279 The text can hardly stand, as it includes 
Electra in the penalties. Verrall, by an ingenious 
conjecture, gets rid of the pronoun (dual) and gains a 
graphic description of the leprosy as ' spun ' in threads 
of corruption, i.e. spreading in filaments on the flesh, 
like the telter ( barking about ' the body ' with loath- 
some crust 1 (Shakspeare, Hamlet i. v.). The disease 
is first described as a 'blight' (cf. Eumen. 785), and 
then defined with terrible precision by its chief symp- 
tom, the hairy growth, which guided the priest under 
the Mosaic law (Levit. xiii. 10). The prevalence of 
this disease in several forms may be inferred by 
Strabo's mention of a medicinal spring in Elis, which 
was used in the cure of * alph'i and leucae (the kind 
here specified) and lichenes? 283 The Erinys, or em- 
bodied curse, springs as it were from the blood itself. 
292 So, according to the legend (cf. Sept. c. Theb. 
765 ff.), Oedipus as a patricide would not allow 
himself to be served from the golden cup, which 
had belonged to his fathers. 

Kommos, 306-478. 

306 The relation of Zeus to the Fates is obscured 
by giving the latter word (Moira) the sense of pre- 
appointed destiny instead of its true meaning, 'ap- 
portionment,' or * order.' When these powers are 
represented in the Hesiodic Theogony (211 ff.) as 
older than Zeus (being daughters of Night, the 


child of primeval Chaos), we should infer only that 
a certain order existed in the universe before Zeus. 
But he, as the personal guardian of that order, 
is consistently regarded as acting with the 'Moirai.' 
In another passage of the same poem (904) they are 
called the daughters of Zeus and Themis ! See 
below, 1. 647, and Eumen. 28. 313 The primi- 
tive law of retaliation, sanctioned by Zeus (Agam. 
1562) and justifying the blood-feud (inf. 400 ff.). 
315 The tone is somewhat like Hamlet's ' thou poor 
ghost ! ' (to his dead father). There are character- 
istic differences between the speakers throughout 
the Kommos. The young Orestes is faint-hearted 
till he is roused by hearing of the indignities done 
to his father (435-8). Electra is impulsive and fiercely 
resentful toward her mother (430). The women of 
the Chorus are truculent and vindictive, like slaves. 
Only the leader is calm and counsels patience. To 
her, as she speaks in a sense for the poet, is given the 
exposition of doctrine in the opening passage and sub- 
sequently. 324 The fire of the funeral-pile. 328 That 
is, to the dead. The wailing at the tomb awakens 
him to a present sense of his wrongs, and aids justice 
thereby. 344 Lit. l the paean in the royal hall shall 
usher the kinsman new-mingled, 1 i.e. newly conse- 
crated by the bowl. Cf. Agam. 245. The ' new 
mixing ' signifies more than the renewal of the ties of 
love between the restored heir and his loyal people ; 
for, where kinsmen were concerned, the blood-tie was 
believed to be kept alive or revived by their drinking 
wine together, a survival of more primitive rites, 
in whieh kinsmen mingled in a bowl either their 
own blood or that of a victim slain for the purpose. 


According to Plato (Critias, p. 1 19) the blood of a bull 
was so employed in the imaginary barbaric ' Atlantis, 1 
whence we may infer that such customs were not 
unknown in Greece. 358 Hades and Persephone. 
SCO A ' king of kings," 1 an Homeric title, which had its 
counterpart in the Persian title of royalty inscribed by 
Cyrus on his own tomb. 373 l Hyperborean 1 : the 
Greeks imagined an earthly paradise in a region beyond 
the north wind (Boreas), exempt from cold as from 
disease and old age (Pindar, Pyth. x.). Rawlinson on 
Herod, iv. 33 (Grant's abridged edition, p. 347) notices 
one tradition pointing to Britain. 375 The joint lament 
of the two children working on the dead as a scourge (r). 
Verrall suggests that the epithet * double "* denotes the 
peculiar duplicate structure of thedirge, or ratherdouble- 
triple arrangement, in which the triplets (Orestes, 
Electra, Chorus), four in number, are broken by the 
anapaestic passages. 395 A strange hieratic epithet 
used here in place of teleios (Agam. 972), but applied 
to any powerful god, e.g. Eros (' the bloomy Love," 1 
Aristoph. Av. 1737, transl. by Kennedy). 406 The 
Erinyes are significantly called ' curses of the dead,' as 
though they were ghosts permitted to avenge them- 
selves on the living. 422 Orestes is now brought to 
the threshold of his determination, announced first 
in this half-metaphor. The succeeding part of the 
Kommos is more impassioned, and no further doctrinal 
exhortations are interposed. 423 The Arians (a Persian 
word, meaning ' noble ') inhabited the region of Cabul, 
the Kissians formed a province of Susiana, both belong- 
ing to the Persian empire. Cf. Pers. 1190. Oriental 
waiiing-women were, doubtless, among those hired for 
Greek funerals in the poet's time. 425 At the hurried 


burial of Agamemnon immediately after his murder, 
when the women-slaves, and they alone, were allowed 
to perform a perfunctory dirge for the sake of appear- 
ance. The indignity consisted in the absence of all 
members of the household [illustration No. 6], which 
Clytemnestra threatens, Agam. 1554, and of all the 
citizens. * 39 The Greek word is thus explained by 
Suidas : the hands and feet were cut off and tied 
under the armpits or round the neck, with the object 
of disabling the ghost and preventing his pursuit of 
the living. Paley compares the custom, not long dis- 
used in England, of interring suicides with a stake 
through the body, which may have started from the 
primitive idea of laying the ghost. The denial of 
funeral offerings had a similar motive, viz., to starve 
and weaken the dead man. 45 The word is wanting 
in the text. 4n Like lint : medicine is a favourite 
field of metaphor. Cf. Agam. 17, and below, 1. 529. 
473 The fi na l prayer is purposely concluded with a 
word of good omen. 

Second Episode, 479-584. 

485 He alone of the * well- feasted ' dead will go with- 
out the proper offerings the ' savour ' (knisa] of sacri- 
ficial meat, and the blood, which was still as in the 
Homeric age (Od. xi. 36) poured into a trench by the 
altar or tomb, to be received by the earth. Euripides 
(Elect. 514) represents Orestes as sacrificing a victim 
to him at this stage ; Aeschylus, with more truth as 
well as more dramatic effect, makes it a condition of 
the offerings that the king shall first assert his ' heroic ' 
dignity and power. 487 A fragmentary notice from a 


history of Argolis by Deinias may imply that Electra's 
marriage with Pylades took place on the anniversary 
of Agamemnon's death in the month Gamelion. He 
was entitled to these nuptial dues not only as her 
father, but as a power in the nether-world, whose 
sanction was needed. It was the cruel purpose of 
Aegisthus and Clytemnestra to prevent her marriage 
for fear of raising up a future avenger : this is made a 
prominent motive by Euripides. 492 The fatal gar- 
ment is described first as a ' new robe, 1 suggesting, as 
Conington remarks, De'faneira's deadly gift (Soph. 
Trach. 613), and then (494) likened, with even deeper 
irony, to a veil such as Cassandra speaks of, Agam. 
1179. 498 A metaphor from the palaestra. When a 
bout was drawn, e.g. through the combatants falling 
out of the ring, they closed again 'with the same 
grip 1 as before. Orestes, with or without victory, 
will carry the struggle through to the end. 502 The 
son is here called ' the child of the male ' (not merely 
the ' male child '), not only because the family was 
perpetuated in the male line, but on the theory (which 
was held by Democritus, see Aristotle, de Gener. Anim. 
4, i) that he is more nearly akin to the father, or (as 
Apollo argues, Eumen. 658) that he has no blood-kin- 
ship at all with the mother. The latter view is so far 
reflected in the Greek language that the terms appro- 
priated to maternity connote chiefly nursing, while 
the ordinary term for begetting means literally ' plant- 
ing, 1 and is in Aeschylus and Sophocles limited to 
the father : an exception may be found, however, in 
Euripides, Alcest. 294. 505 ' 7 These beautiful lines are 
probably a gloss, borrowed from Sophocles. 517 Lit. 
' the unconscious dead, 1 their normal state according 


to the old Homeric idea ; but this is contradicted by 
the poet's language concerning their passions, e.g. 
1. 324. 525 Following the interpretation of the house- 
hold seers (37). They judged that the serpent, the 
symbol of the grave, indicated some danger from the 
dead, but did not see that it also represented Orestes. 
Hence, instead of putting Clytemnestra on her guard 
against her son, they merely advised her to send offer- 
ings to the tomb, thereby aiding to bring Orestes and 
Electra together. Presumably the dream was sent 
from the world below by the agency of Hermes, the 
giver of sleep. 538 The time of the ceremony is thus 
shown to be the early morning. 539 Lit. * a cure of 
shredding ' (medicinal herbs), cf. Agam. 17. 562 The 
term survived from an age when it implied mutual aid 
in war as well as hospitality. The actual spear-friend 
was Strophius, father of Pylades (Agam. 88 1). Orestes, 
however, presents himself simply as a stranger com- 
missioned by Strophius. 564 This would come natu- 
rally from Pylades. 574 Aegisthus will quail at the 
sight of him. 578 His death, following the murder of 
Thyestes" 1 children and that of Agamemnon, is likened 
to the last of the three libations at a feast ; all are 
offered to the Erinys, and in claiming the blood of 
Aegisthus she (like Zeus) * saves ' the house. 579 The 
actor playing Electra retires to reappear in the part of 
Clytemnestra. The mother and daughter are no- 
where brought together as in the Electra of Sophocles. 
583 Orestes may refer to Agamemnon, pointing to the 
tomb, or to Apollo, pointing to his image as Cassandra 
does [Agam. 1081) ; this would imply, however, that 
the locality was ignored, as the symbol of the god 
was connected, not with the tomb, but with the house. 


First Stasimon, 585-651. 

589 Lightning-bolts, meteors, comets. 595 Aegisthus 
is glanced at, but the deeper guilt of Clytemnestra is 
suggested by ranging her with the women famous in 
legend for crimes against a son (Althaea), a father 
(Scylla), a husband (the Lemnians). 601 Some conjec- 
tural readings give a somewhat less harsh sense : unholy 
passion in women prevailing over the marriage-bond 
[Enger] is stronger than brute or whirlwind [Weil]. 
But the exceeding wickedness of women corrupted by 
passion is a common theme (cf. Od. xi. 427, of Cly- 
temnestra). 605 The death of Meleager had been 
treated in a tragedy by Phrynichus. 618 It is implied 
that she was enamoured of the briber as well as the 
bribe, a combination of two different versions of the 
story. 622 He was given up to Hermes, ' conductor of 
ghosts." 1 623 ff. A corrupt line (628) has destroyed the 
sense of this passage ; as it is here restored, the purport 
is- simply to deprecate a recital of Clytemnestra's mis- 
deeds as interrupting the catalogue of women's sins, 
which is presently resumed. 63 Aegisthus ; cf. 305. 
634 The savagery of Lemnus is attested by historical 
writers, who ascribe it to the Pelasgian element in the 
population. The story, which points the moral here, 
is as follows : the men of Lemnus, having neglected 
the worship of Aphrodite, were impelled by her to 
forget their own wives for certain Thracian women ; 
the offended wives murdered them in revenge. Hero- 
dotus (vi. 138) has another tale, in which the women 
are the victims. He says, like Aeschylus, that in con- 
sequence of these crimes all barbarities of the kind 
were called in Greece * Lemnian.'' 639 The metaphor 


of the sword is more familiar in Hebrew, e.g. Ezek. 
xxi. 1-17. 647 Aisa (' equal portion ') like Moira (306) 
stands for moral order in the world ; she is therefore 
the executive of Justice. Erinys brings into the guilty 
house the curse, by means of which she discharges it 
of pollution. The curse is called the ' child ' of the 
crimes which produce it. 

Third Episode, 652-783. 

652 ff. It is now late evening (660). The time, at first 
the morning and now the evening twilight, reminds us 
of the grave ; the Electro of Sophocles opens with the 
early day (17 f.), in joyous anticipation of victory. 
Orestes with Pylades enters by the left passage ; he 
knocks thrice at the door, which is supposed to repre- 
sent the gate of the outer court (561), but is named 
from the herkos instead of the au/e, as the old courtyard 
(aule) had lost its use in the city. 662 Public inns 
were known as early as Hesiod (IVorks^ 493) and per- 
haps earlier (Od. xviii. 329), as the stranger's privilege 
became restricted. 671 The eyes are regarded as ex- 
pressing character in many aspects, e.g. Eumen. 928 
(the eyes of Persuasion), cf. 1. 758 (laughter in the 
eyes), Agam. 520 (the eyes of statues seeming to beam 
with a divine joy), ib. 418 (the eyes of Helenas statue, 
cold and pale in her absence). The last two allusions 
suggest what the greater sculptors realised in their treat- 
ment of the eyes by means of light and shade. 703 The 
irony here is the counterpart of Clytemnestra's in her 
reception of Agamemnon. 712 Addressed to an atten- 
dant. 713 Vulg. 'these attendants and fellow-travellers, 1 
but the plural should be regarded as conventional (cf. 



673, 716) or altered to the singular [Pauw]. Clytem- 
nestra merely notices Pylades, suspecting nothing. 
Verrall supposes, on the contrary, that Orestes is ac- 
companied by a train of confederates disguised as 
merchant travellers. But there is no hint to this 
effect. According to Sophocles, Elect. 36, he was 
commanded by the oracle to do his work without an 
armed force. Cf. 11. 274, 556. 72 ' 2 The earthen 
barrow supported by a stone foundation (4). The same 
word is applied to an altar with raised base (Soph. 
Oed. R. 183). 73 - That is, ' woman of Cilicia ' ; the 
names of slaves were often derived from their nation- 
ality, e.g. Thrassa, Geta. 749 The character of the 
nurse here suggests a comparison with the Eurycleia 
of the Odyssey (xix.), but the portraiture is more pic- 
turesque and naively realistic. 773 She is to tell 
Aegisthus that the message is for his private ear. 
There is an important variant, giving the sense : ' in 
the hand of the messenger a crooked story is set 
straight," that is (as Peile explains) : * it rests with the 
bearer of a message to give it whatever turn he pleases. 1 

Second Stasimon^ 783-837. 

797 The victorious tread of Orestes is compared with 
the regular and * rhythmic ' paces of a thoroughbred. 
801 The ancestral or l household ' gods, who guard 
the treasure-chamber in the back part of the house 
(muchos) behind the megaron. 806 Apollo, dwelling in 
the recess of his Delphic sanctuary. 8n Cf. Agam. 
1179. 815 The character of secrecy belonged to 
Hermes (the son of Maia) from his association with 
the dark underworld, and it was likewise a natural 


attribute of the messenger god. As he had misled 
Clytemnestra through the delusive interpretation of 
her dream (525), so he is prayed to keep dark Orestes' 
plot. 823 The genuine dirge still due to Agamemnon. 
824 The Chorus appear to chant their song of deliver- 
ance beforehand, so far as can be made out from the 
corrupt text. 831 He is to emulate Perseus, the slayer 
of Medusa, nerving his heart and taking care lest the 
eye of the Gorgon Clytemnestra should check him. 
Such appeals to heroic example were full of meaning ; 
for the heroes inspired personal devotion, like the 
saints in medieval Christendom. 

Fourth Episode, 838-934. 

850 Zeus is invoked, as by Clytemnestra before the 
final blow (Agam. 972), when there is no more to be 
done by human means. 866 Orestes is compared to 
a combatant in reserve (ephedros) y waiting to engage 
the victors. 872 They retire, perhaps, into one of the 
side passages. 878 He enters from the central (?) door 
and knocks at the side door (R.), supposed to lead to 
the women's apartments. 889 The epithet is ambigu- 
ous. The meaning may be * man-wearying,' i.e. a 
labourer's axe, as Prof. Campbell explains. If it is 
taken in the other sense (' man -slay ing'), it may 
denote the axe used against Agamemnon. 897 The 
same maternal appeal is found in Homer, //. xxii. 80. 
890 Pylades probably enters here, not with Orestes at 
1. 892. The same actor may have played the part of 
the servant, changing his dress in the short interval. 
904 The object is to avoid a scene of violence on the 
stage. To this rule, observed by the Attic dramatists, 


the suicide of Ajax in Sophocles 1 tragedy is no ex- 
ception. His dying speech has an ethical value. 
908 Having her son to tend her, as a matter of duty, in 
old age. 918 Compare her scornful references to Chry- 
seis(i439) and Cassandra (1441). It is remarkable that 
she is silent concerning the sacrifice of Iphigeneia, her 
strongest plea. The poet, by laying bare her baser 
motives at this crisis, seems to imply that these were 
the deeper springs of her conduct. 926 The language 
is founded partly on a proverbial saying, which, as 
quoted by a scholiast, runs : " tears are wasted on a 
fool as on a tomb." 934 Orestes is called the 'eye 
of the house, 1 a variation of the Homeric * light, 1 
signifying hope or salvation. Verrall conjectures 
that during the following interval Orestes and his 
company are supposed to have overcome the guards, 
and that the women when they return have put on 
festive attire instead of their dark robes (n), as the 
loyal citizens, held down by the tyrants, are at last 
triumphant (cf. 864). But the fighting, to serve 
any purpose, must have been prior to the death of 

Fourth Stasimon, 935-972. 

942 ff. and 962 ff. These strophes, which have a 
specially triumphal character, were probably sung by 
the whole Chorus ; but the structure is rendered un- 
certain by the corrupt state of the text. 947 The lord 
of stratagems is Hermes. 951 Dik6 (Justice) is treated 
as an abbreviation for ' Dios Kore, 1 i.e. maid of Zeus 
(see Verrall's note), and this is regarded as a revelation 
or divination of the true name, as in the case of 
'Helena' (Agam. 686). In the Hesiodic Theogony, 901, 


she is the child of Themis, who is daughter of Zeus, 
but Aeschylus is careless respecting such details. Cf. 
Eumen. 3. 969 A familiar metaphor (e.g. Agam. 33). 
Compare the homely Shaksperian phrase, 'the whirli- 
gig of time.' 

Exodus, 973-1062. 

Orestes enters from the left door, as Clytemnestra 
from the right in the corresponding scene of the 
Agamemnon (1372). The corpses are either discovered 
as there by the withdrawal of a curtain, or carried out 
side by side on a bier by the attendants, whom Orestes 
presently (991) calls upon to unfold the fatal robe. 
979 As they conspired to kill Agamemnon, so they 
have died together as though bound by oath. A line 
preceding this appears to be an explanatory gloss. 
982 It was made without outlet (Agam. 1382) and 
thrown over him as he stepped out of the bath so as 
to link hands and feet together. The descriptive pas- 
sage following is wrongly placed in the MSS. after 
1004, making it refer to Clytemnestra herself! " 5 The 
sun is often called to witness as beholding everything 
on earth (Homer, //. iii. 277). The poets were aware 
of a tradition which identified him with Apollo, and 
use it occasionally to dignify Helios, e.g. Sept. c. Theb. 
844andEurip.(fragm.): "O beauteous beaming Helios 
. . ., thou art rightly called Apollo among men." 
This is of course precluded here and wherever Apollo 
has to be thought of in his own distinctive character. 
Orestes is unconscious that a greater than the Sun- 
god is to appear as his witness, Eumen. 576. " 8 The 
law, according to Demosthenes, gave a right of sum- 
mary vengeance on the adulterer to the husband, son, 


brother, or father of the woman. 1002 According to 
Aristotle, it was said in Thessaly that there was a 
snake called the ' sacred,' whose touch was venomous 
as well as its bite. The viper and lamprey (sea-eel) 
are coupled by Aristophanes, Ran. 473. There was 
a popular notion that they paired, and that, when this 
happened, the one killed the other ; hence the grim 
suggestiveness of the simile. The whole speech is 
designed to show the gradual and fitful approach of 
madness. After the cold, calm irony of the beginning 
(973 ff.) Orestes loses himself. Then comes a brief 
respite, when his rage gives way to tears (1010). Again 
he feels his brain reeling (1021), but quieted by the 
thought of the oracle, he once more masters himself and 
pronounces his own justification in set terms (1026). 
His last thought, like Cassandra's, is for his good 
name (1042) ; the words are on his lips, when the 
hallucination of the Furies 1 pursuit comes upon him. 
1011 It is clear from this that, according to Aeschylus, a 
sword was used ; whereas Sophocles (Elect. 99) and 
Euripides (Hec. 1261) allude expressly to an axe as the 
instrument of the murder. But Aeschylus appears 
to recognise the axe also in the phrase * a two-edged 
weapon 1 (1496), and Cassandra, though she speaks of a 
sword (1262), apprehends for herself at least a 'forked 
blade 1 (114) and a death upon the block (1277), like 
the death of an ox, the ordinary sacrificial implement 
being the axe. It seems, therefore, necessary to sup- 
pose that Clytemnestra employed both, and we may 
read her account of the scene in this sense : she began 
by felling Agamemnon, while he was entangled in 
the robe, with two blows of an axe, and dealt a third 
stroke, as he lay prostrate, with a sword lent for the 


purpose by Aegisthus in order that he, as the avenger 
of his father, might have a direct hand in the deed. 
See Classical Rev. xii. 1014 That is, Agamemnon 
(cf. 1. 8). The dead is nearer now that his blood has 
been discovered ; it is not too late to reach him by 
words of- warning, which should have been spoken 
before the soul was released by fire. 1029 Lit. * philtre ' 
(love-charm) ; the use of such charms must have been 
common, to judge from the frequency of the meta- 
phor in the tragedians and Pindar. 1035 Cf. Agam. 494. 
Orestes is not yet crowned with laurel, but as a humble 
suppliant carries a branch of olive with a fillet of wool 
tied round it (cf. Eumen. 43, Soph. Oed. R. 3). 1037 The 
fire in the sanctuary of Delphi, which was never 
extinguished. The Delphic temple, like that of Vesta 
at Rome, contained a ' hearth ' (hestia\ on which the 
fire was kept continually burning, a relic of a religion 
earlier than the special cult of Apollo. The ' hearth "" 
is described by Pausanias as in the outer sanctuary 
near the omphalos (Eumen. 40). 1038 From the Homeric 
age downwards banishment was the penalty for murder; 
compare the description, //. xxiv. 479 ff. 1045 The 
word specially denotes omens conveyed by the tongue. 
There was a bad omen in Orestes 1 allusion to his 
death. 1067 The epithet is formed from gon- (' child ') 
with the usual termination denoting a wind. It may 
perhaps signify the ' offspring ' in a special sense of 
Typhoeus and Gaia ; compare ' giant ' (Agam. 692) 
applied to Zephyros in the sense of earth-sprung, and 
consequently violent. 


Prologue^ 1-63. 

THE background is the same as before, but is now 
understood to represent the outer wall of the adytum 
of the Delphic temple, and subsequently that of the 
temple of Athena Polias. It may be conjectured that 
the central and widest door (not, perhaps, used in the 
first two plays) was covered with a curtain, in front of 
which the priestess spoke her exordium ; this being 
withdrawn (64) as Apollo enters, the omphalos is shown, 
indicating the interior, with Orestes and some (pro- 
bably three) of the Furies couched around ; after the 
awakening (140) these come out and the rest follow, 
taking part in the choral song. 

1-33 In this solemn exordium the history of the oracle 
is ingeniously adapted to the poet's purpose, which is 
to exalt the authority of Apollo, the patron of Orestes. 
Hence he sets aside the common story that Apollo 
wrested the oracle from its first occupant, Gaia 
(Earth), when he slew the dragon which guarded 
it. This was the popular tradition ; it is adopted 
by Euripides (Iphlg. in Taur. 1249 ^"0 an ^ Pindar. 
Aeschylus, on the contrary, does not even allow a 
breach in the succession, but introduces between 
Themis and Apollo Phoebe (a daughter of Gaia and 
Coeus, Hesiod, Theog. 406), whom he supposes to have 
held the oracle for a time and presented it to Phoebus, 


the son of her daughter Leto, who is thus made the 
legitimate successor. - This ascription was doubly 
justified. First, the Earth-spirit (Gaia) was naturally 
supposed to receive the secrets of the Underworld 
through her caves and chasms ; many of these were 
haunted by dead ' heroes,' who had been seers among 
the living (e.g. Teiresias) or otherwise possessed the 
prophetic faculty. At Delphi the same connection 
was suggested by the mysterious chasm, with its 
mephitic exhalation causing the prophetic trance. 
Hence the Delphians themselves held that the oracle 
once belonged to Gaia, as Pausanias was informed 
(x. 5, 5). Secondly, in the Hesiodic Theogony, which 
Aeschylus closely studied, Gaia has a special prophetic 
office, in addition to the dignity belonging to her as 
the parent with Ouranos of the older or Titan powers. 
This is manifest throughout the conflicts which led 
ultimately to the enthronement of Zeus. It was from 
her, too, that Prometheus had the secret of the fate 
impending over that god (Prom. V. 209). 3 This is in- 
consistent with the poet's surmise in another place (Prom. 
V. 209), that Earth and Themis are two names of the 
same goddess. Cf. Choeph. 951. 7 The double name 
' Phoibos Apollon ' points to the blending of an earlier 
with a later cult. The former word was associated 
with purity as well as with divine possession, and there 
is evidence that it had originally a larger and less per- 
sonal application ; e.g. Cassandra is called a ' Phoibas. 1 
Cf. Choeph. 32. If we assume a primitive pre-Apolline 
cult, in which rites of purifying went with divination, 
and women were ministrants, as in the ancient Ger- 
man religion and in the worship of Vesta, there may 
be a real significance in the relationship here assigned 


to ' Phoebe. 1 Miss J. E. Harrison (J. H. S. xix. 2, 
4 Delphika ') regards her as having been an ancillary 
Earth-Spirit, the l daughter ' of Gaia in the same sense 
in which Persephone was daughter of Demeter. (Cf. 
Choeph. 32.) But her presidency at Delphi is merely 
an invention, for which the poet finds a plausible 
ground in the two names, assuming that something 
analogous to the Athenian family customs obtained in 
Olympus. At Athens a newborn child, having first 
been < carried round ' the hearth, and so admitted to 
communion with the household gods, received from 
his father the family name, and with it ' birth-day ' 
gifts, the first festival (amphldromla] taking place 
on the fifth or seventh day, the second on the 
tenth day after birth ; and the name was, as 
a rule, that of the child's grandfather. Thus, if 
Phoebus was named after Phoebe, it would be 
appropriate for her to make him a present of the 
oracle. 9 The Make' is a round tarn, which sup- 
plied water to Apollo's temple in the island. In the 
Homeric hymn to the Pythian Apollo, Delos repre- 
sents the god as deserting her (though he had a temple 
there) because of her ruggedness. Here too the word 
used implies a rugged or 'ridgy 1 island. 10 Pallas 
stands for Athens or Attica. The god's route is 
differently traced in Pindar, viz., from Tanagra in 
Boeotia. 13 The Athenians are so designated, because 
Ericthonius, the mythic king of Athens, was made in 
local legends the son of Hephaestus, to account for his 
being worshipped at Athens along with Athena. The 
term has also a metaphorical application to the road- 
makers as such, since the god was the father of 
mechanical inventions. 14 The description refers to, 


and is designed to explain a curious ceremony. When 
deputies were sent from Athens to Delphi on a sacred 
embassy, they were preceded by men carrying axes in 
memory of the making of the pilgrims' road. The 
poet connects this with the god's journey through 
Attica. 16 Delphus, the eponymous king of Delphi, 
was son of Poseidon by Melaina, whose mother 
Melantho was' daughter of Deucalion. 21 She is so 
named as having a shrine ' before the temple ' (of 
Apollo). But in the time of Demosthenes the title 
was confounded with Pronoia (Forethought) ; so 
Pausanias has it. 23 Pan especially frequented this 
great cave (Pausan. x. 32, 7), which was high up on 
Parnassus. It was large enough to give shelter to 
a multitude of fugitives during the Persian war 
(Herod, viii. 36). Mysterious moving lights were 
said to appear in it, when the nymphs joined in the 
rout of Dionysus (Soph. Ant'ig. 1126). Cf. Eurip. 
Bacch. 306 ff. 24 A name of Dionysus, derived from 
the noise (bromos) of his rout. 2G Torn to pieces by 
his mother Agave, as a hare is killed by dogs. The 
scene of this event was Cithaeron according to the 
Theban tradition, which Aeschylus followed in a 
tragedy on this theme, entitled l Xantriae. 1 From 
Cithaeron the god travelled to Parnassus. 27 This 
stream (now Xeropotamos) rose near the Corycian 
cave, whose nymphs were sometimes called l daughters 
of Pleistus.' Poseidon had an altar in the Delphic 
temple, and there was a tradition, according to Pau- 
sanias, that he once had a share in the oracle but 
exchanged it for Calaureia : the remains of his temple 
on that island were discovered by Chandler in 1765. 
28 See note on Agam. 972. Zeus was represented in 


the temple by a statue, near which were images of two 
Moirai (Fates), whose * leader ' he was called (Moira- 
getes), and one of Apollo with the same appellation. 
This serves to illustrate the Hellenic conception of 
'fate 1 as order, subject to the guiding will of Zeus 
(cf. Choeph. 306, 647), of which the oracle itself was 
a practical application. ^ That is, a slab laid on the 
gilded wooden tripod [see illustration], placed over a 
fissure in the rocky foundation of the adytum or inner 
sanctuary. This must have been invisible or at least 
at some depth below the paved floor, where the inter- 
preters (prophetae) sat listening to the utterances of the 
priestess, which they converted into oracles. From 
the time when the oracle began to be regularly fre- 
quented, there were two priestesses, who served alter- 
nately, and a third kept in reserve. The Pythoness 
fasted for three days previously and bathed in the 
Castalian stream. Before taking her seat she drank 
water from the sacred spring Cassotis. In order to 
place herself under Apollo's influence, she chewed 
bay-leaves and held a branch of bay in her hand ; she 
also threw bay-leaves with barley-meal on an altar in 
the adytum, kindled with pinewood, by which was 
a golden statue of the god. The vapour from the 
chasm was so powerful as sometimes to cause delirium 
and death. 32 The balloting was conducted by 
Delphian officials. The formula is thus quoted : " O 
Chance and Loxias, to which of these dost thou 
give the right ? " The Delphian nobles were ap- 
pointed by lot to their office of presiding ' by the 
tripod 1 (Eurip. Ion. 416 ff.). Though the oracle was 
open to all the world, the Greeks had precedence over 
foreigners, and a privilege (promanteia] was sometimes 


given to a particular person or state. The manage- 
ment of the temple and the oracle belonged chiefly to 
the heads of five Delphian families, specially conse- 
crated (Hosioi] and tracing their lineage to Deucalion, 
whose legend was locally connected with this region 
of Greece. These high nobles (called the Pythian 
'lords' and 'kings,' Eurip. Ion. 1219, 1222) were 
the 'prophets' (ib. 413) and the real authors of the 
oracles. The priestess passes through the central door, 
and re-enters after a pause. ^ At first young maidens 
were employed, but subsequently the priestesses were 
elderly women (not less than fifty years of age), usually 
chosen from poor families in the country. 39 The 
woollen fillets or branches wreathed with wool, with 
which the adytum was hung (like the augural station 
of Teiresias, Eurip. Bacch. 251), were so distinctive 
that they sometimes stand for the shrine itself (Arist. 
Pint. 39). The branch of olive or laurel with this 
appendage (stemma] marked the suppliant ; hence 
Orestes carried it as one suing for absolution (Choeph. 
1035). These were, as a rule, laid on the altar (but 
taken away, if the prayer was granted, Soph. Oed. R. 
142). The omphalos served the same purpose, being 
regarded as an altar. Orestes is accordingly repre- 
sented in an Apulian vase-painting seated on its base, 
and his woollen fillet is wreathed on the stone. The 
stemma specially associated with Delphi was formed 
of tufts of laurel tied with threads of red wool with a 
tassel (sillubos) at either end. 40 The word commonly 
denoted the metal boss in the centre of a shield ; it 
is applied figuratively in Homer to Calypso's island 
standing out like a shield-boss amid the expanse of 
ocean. However it came to be used of the conical 


stone at Delphi, the word in that connection suggested 
the idea that the altar marked the centre of the earth, 
and this took shape in the legend that Zeus guided 
Heracles to discover the spot by two eagles which met 
there, flying from east and west ; the birds were 
figured in gold on the omphalos. An altar of such 
peculiar shape must have been modelled on some- 
thing that preceded it in the local cult. This may 
have been a sacred * black stone ' of the kind called 
* baitulos, 1 a word derived from the Semitic (beth-ull^ 
cf. Gen. xxviii. 18). There was such a stone preserved 
in the temple ; it was anointed daily and swathed in 
wool on holy days. It appears in the story of Kronos 
according to Hesiod (Theog. 453 ff.), as the stone 
which was given him by Rhea to swallow in place of 
the infant Zeus, and was afterwards " set fast at Pytho 
for a sign " by Zeus himself. Hence, if Rhea is 
another name for the old Earth-goddess, it may be in- 
ferred that this was a fetish-stone which had belonged 
either to her or to Kronos, supposing him to have been 
a sky-god ; such stones were really meteorites and the 
god would naturally be said to disgorge them, while 
the swathed stone would suggest an infant : cf. ' The 
Greek Epic, 1 p. 274. Miss Harrison, I.e., adopting (in 
place of the usual explanation of the word as akin to 
the Latin umbilicus, l navel ') another derivation, viz., 
from omphl ('voice 1 ), conjectures that the shape was 
adapted from that of the grave-mound (which was 
made more durable and conspicuous by stuccoing it 
white) or the conical (' bee-hive "") tomb, which was of 
much the same form, and that it was ' vocal ' or ora- 
cular as being haunted by the prophetic spirits of the 
earth ; for Gaia, it was said, even after her dispossession, 


continued to send up 'dreams' (that is, dream-oracles), 
cf. Eurip. Iph. T. 1260 ff. The altar is here de- 
scribed as within the adytum, but it had been trans- 
ferred to the outer part of the naos when Pausanias 
visited the place. 48 The portraiture is meant partly 
to recall the Homeric Gorgon, as she appears ' fright- 
ful and grisly 1 on the aegis of Athene (//. v. 741) and 
the shield of Agamemnon (ib. xi. 36). But she had no 
snakes about her head, belonging as she did to the celes- 
tial and not to the infernal region ; the winged horse 
Pegasus, which sprang from Medusa's body, carried 
the thunder and lightning for Zeus, and her two 
immortal sisters had their abode beyond Ocean. 
Aeschylus, however, gave l snaky 1 hair to them as to 
the Erinyes. 50 That is, the Harpies. Their name 
(* snatchers ') obviously lent itself to a variety of alle- 
gorical conceptions. In Homer they are spirits of the 
storm (Od. i. 241) with a vague office of ' snatching, 1 
but associated in some degree with death, e.g. Od. xx. 
66, they carry off the daughters of Pandareus and give 
them as handmaids to the Erinyes. As messengers of 
death they appear on funereal monuments (such as 
the so-called ' Harpy tomb ' in the British Museum) 
with winged bodies but human heads (they are * fair- 
haired, 1 Hesiod, Theog. 265 ff.). A later representa- 
tion, from which Aeschylus here borrows, degraded 
them to birds of prey. As such they were sent to 
punish Phineus, king of Thrace, for blinding his 
daughters. The features of resemblance here are the 
visage with its repulsive hungry look and the foul 
rheum, which is described (probably from a picture) 
by Vergil (A en. iii. 212) as polluting the viands which 
they snatched. 51 The Aeschylean Furies need nothing 


to aid their terrific strength of limb. The other and 
weaker conception the winged Fury appears in 
Euripides (Orest. 317), and in late Greek or Etruscan 
art. Thanatos (Death) likewise has black wings, 
Alcest. 24. Otherwise wings go either with the bird- 
form (e.g. the Harpy and Siren) or with such a figure 
as Nike* (Victoryj, who is regarded as a celestial mes- 
senger flying to crown the victor. ^ Lit. ' unap- 
proachable ' ; their breath poisons the air and blights the 
victim. Vulg. ' not moulded, 1 i.e. they are real, not 
statues. 54 This suggests, not sacrificial offerings of 
blood like that which Thanatos drinks (Alcest. 845, 
851), but the very blood of the human victim, on 
which the Erinys feasts instead (138, 254, 265). The 
bloodshot eyes were more terrible in contrast with the 
pallor of the face, which is noticed by Aristophanes, 
Plut. 418 f. From his burlesque allusions (tb. 425) 
we gather that the Furies carried torches, which now 
smoulder while they sleep. 55 Their dress is dark 
(Choeph. 1049), ^ u ^ S re 7 or bluish black (352). Their 
girdles, which Strabo notices (iii. 175), may have been 
scarlet, judging from a description given by Diogenes 
Laertius (vi. 102) of an eccentric Cynic, who went 
about in the dress of the Furies, saying that he had 
been sent from Hades to report on the sins of men. 
The images in temples were draped on high festivals, 
especially the ancient seated figures, on whose knees 
it was convenient to lay a robe (peplos]. It was a rule 
that this should be of the best and new once a year, 
so that the Furies' squalid garb might well be regarded 
as an affront. 62 So in Aristoph., Plut. ii., Apollo is 
called ' wise physician and seer.' The two arts, whose 
combination, in the person of the ' medicine man, 1 


goes with the lowest stage or civilisation (cf. Agam. 
1622), were ostensibly united in Apollo, since Ascle- 
pios, the eponymous patron of the medical guilds, 
nominally derived his distinction from the Delphic 
god, his supposed father. We find much the same 
functions combined in Epimenides of Crete, a seer 
versed especially in the ritual of purification ; he is, 
perhaps, the Cretan l prophet ' quoted in the Epistle 
of Paul to Titus, i. 12. The name Loxias is used of 
Apollo as the god of oracles, and generally as the 
embodiment of the sacred law, which dealt with reli- 
gious offences by corresponding means of expiation 
and absolution. The derivation is uncertain ; Frohde 
explains the word through Sanscr. lakshd as meaning 
one who ' indicates, 1 the god of l signs.' 

First Episode, 64-163. 

69 That is, no monster such as the Kentaurs, whose 
other name was the * brutes * (pheres, Aeol.). ^ The 
ancient wooden image (xoanon), made from the sacred 
olive, and doubly venerable from its antiquity ; for the 
temple in which it was kept is mentioned in Homer 
with the ' house of Erectheus' (//. ii. 557 ff., Od. vii. 
8 1 ff.). During the Persian occupation it was re- 
moved for safety to Salamis ; subsequently it was 
preserved in the restored temple of Athena Polias and 
afterwards in the new Erectheion. Pausanias, describ- 
ing the latter (i. 26, 6), notices a tradition that the 
image * fell from heaven," 1 due merely to a confusion 
with the rude unshapen * betyls. 1 He does not appear 
to have seen it, but he observed not far from the same 
place a seated figure of the goddess dedicated by Callias 


and made by Endoeus, an Athenian sculptor of the 
school whose traditional founder was the Cretan 
Daedalus : the same artist made a similar one for the 
Athenian colony of Erythrae, with a high cap (polos), 
and a distaff in each hand. A marble statue recently 
discovered on the Acropolis (now in the Acropolis 
Museum) corresponds in its archaic character with 
the time (about B.C. 550), and may possibly be the 
one which he noticed : the stiff modelling of the body 
with the ribbed chiton closely adhering is in the style 
derived from early wood-carving, though there is an 
approach to the freer manner in the treatment of the 
legs. The same type is repeated in several small 
votive images of terra-cotta. The old image was, in 
all probability, of the same design, but without the 
aegis ; this was borrowed from the later or armed 
Athena Promachos [' the Champion '], with whom the 
homely type of Athena Polias had nothing in common. 
In the festive procession, as old as Homer (//.'I.e.), a 
pep/os was carried to the temple and laid on the knees 
of the statue ; the Homeric poet imagines such a seated 
figure of the goddess at Troy and a similar procession 
of women, headed by her priestess (//. vi. 92). ^ The 
brotherly affection between the two gods is illustrated in 
the Homeric hymn (iii. 524 ff.), where Apollo condones 
the theft of his oxen, and, delighted with Hermes' in- 
ventions, the lute and the syrinx, declares a ' league of 
amity. 1 Here the bond of a common male parentage 
is dwelt on as the strongest tie uniting them. 91 Com- 
pare the last scene in Aristoph. P/utus, where Hermes 
pleads for himself under the equivalent title of hegemon 
(leader). As such he required a sacrifice from the 
Athenian general before marching. In the Homeric 


poems he guides Odysseus to Circe's palace and Priam 
to the tent of Achilles. 93 As guide of suppliants 
Hermes acts for Zeus, their special protector (Soph. 
Philoct. 484). Apollo retires into the temple ; Orestes 
departs with Hermes. Clytemnestra enters through 
the trap-door (anaptesmd) by the so-called * Charon's 
ladder,' leading out upon the stage or into the orchestra 
from underneath ; such a contrivance was indispens- 
able for personages supposed to emerge from the lower 
world, as here and in the Persians, where the ghost of 
Dareios appears. (See A. Miiller, Griech. Biihnenalter- 
thumer, p. 149 f.) 105 The mind has a clearer outlook 
in sleep, a i prospect' which is denied to waking mor- 
tality. This sententious ' aside,' with which Clytem- 
nestra's speech is strangely interrupted, may be an echo 
of some philosophical doctrine. Pythagoras and Plato 
after him (Rep. ix. init.) insisted on the value of absti- 
nence before sleep as conducing to pure and true 
dreams (cf. Cicero, de Divin. i. 29). The subject of 
divination in sleep was treated by Aristotle in connec- 
tion with his theory of the soul. His view and 
that of the Peripatetic school, as it is recorded by 
Aelian, Var. Hist. iii. II, quite correspond with the 
poet's : they explained visions as due to the clearness 
of the mental perception in sleep, when the soul, being 
collected (< sphered ') in its own seat (the breast) and 
freed from its service to the body, acquires a certain 
power of divination (Cicero, I.e. 30). The same belief 
may be traced under other aspects (Agam. 180, Choeph. 
288). 107 She had repeatedly sacrificed to the Erinyes 
of her murdered husband in the hope of appeasing 
them. The drink-offerings consisted only of pure 
spring water and honey mingled with water or milk. 


In Sophocles' detailed description of Oedipus in the 
grove of the Eumenides (Oed. Col. 478 ff.) a libation 
of water is poured from two bowls in succession, and 
then a third bowl containing water sweetened with 
honey is emptied on the earth. Wine was offered in 
addition to the dead (Eurip. Orest. 160 ff., cf. Iphig. 
in Taur. 1 60 ff.). 108 Sacrificial cakes (ompne] of meal 
and honey are mentioned (Callim. fr. 123) as offered 
by the Hesychides, the Athenian priestesses of the 
Eumenides, and burnt in their service. The burnt- 
offerings of meat (1006), which are to accompany 
their installation, are not part of the regular ritual. 
117 Xhese are the only marginal stage-directions ex- 
tant in any Greek tragedy. 127 The Greek word 
means a serpent ; it stands, therefore, as evidence 
for the primitive association of these spirits with the 
tomb, underlying the other conception of the in- 
carnate curse. 139 After Clytemnestra has retired, 
the three (?) Furies awaken one another and emerge 
together, while the rest follow in succession. 

Parodus y 143-178. 

Wecklein points out the elaborate and striking 
assonance in the dochmiac lines ; this implies strong 
dramatic emphasis in the chanting. The translation 
here roughly follows the rhythms of the original. 
164 The * throne ' (seat) is the omphalos itself, whether 
regarded as the seat of the suppliant or as that of the 
god. Rohde (' Psyche ') would trace the altar itself 
to the primitive conception of a seat where the god 
receives his worshippers. 165 The description is not 
merely metaphorical ; from its prominent position 


and importance the omphalos may be supposed to 
have rested on a base, and it is so represented in 
vase-paintings. m An allusion to the exemption of 
Admetus from death contrived by Apollo, and the 
subsequent rescue of Alcestis, which the Erinyes 
resented as an insult to the Fates, their sisters (961). 
Cf. 724. 

Second Episode, 179254. 

182 Among other examples of an arrow compared 
with a serpent is one quoted by J. F. Boyes ( l Illus- 
trations of Aeschylus and Sophocles ') from the Anglo- 
Saxon poem of Judith : "They then speedily | let 
fly forth | showers of arrows, | serpents of Hilda." 
It was conjectured by Feuerbach that the * Belve- 
dere ' Apollo of the Vatican represented the god in 
this scene putting the Furies to flight. But the 
Greek original, of which this and the Stroganoff 
Apollo are copies, was certainly of the Hellenistic 
age, when the interest in the older Greek tragedy 
had declined. It is known, on the other hand, from 
Pausanias, that a statue of Apollo was consecrated 
in the Delphic temple to commemorate the defeat 
of the Gauls or Galatians, who marched against 
Delphi and were driven back by a thunderstorm 
aiding the defenders. It is likely that the original 
bronze recorded this historical event ; the god may 
have held the aegis (not a bow) in his left hand, 
and a stemma, suggesting the temple, in the other. 
186 This scathing speech strangely misapplied as it 
is to the Erinyes is of historical interest as a de- 
nunciation of Asiatic barbarism. Beheading is men- 
tioned by Herodotus, e.g. as a penalty inflicted on the 


unsuccessful general. We have visible evidence in 
the Assyrian bas-reliefs that prisoners of war were 
subjected to death by impalement (190). Hacking off 
the hands and feet is the same atrocity with which 
Clytemnestra is charged (Choeph. 439), but it appears 
here as a form of punishment. The making of 
eunuchs (188) is an institution which prevailed in Lydia 
as well as in Persia (Herod, i. 270, ii. 245). 192 To 
the Greek perception, an ugly face or figure in itself 
suggested brutal traits of character. So Hephaestus 
reproaches Kratos, the giant sent to bind Prometheus 
(Prom. V. 78) : " thy tongue declares thee cruel as 
thy form." Cf. Shakspeare, Tempest, v. I, of Caliban : 
" He is as disproportioned in his manners | As in his 
shape." 197 Apollo himself had kept flocks (for Ad- 
metus). 214 Hera was worshipped as teleia, or guardian 
of the nuptial rite (te/os), which was consecrated by 
her own union with Zeus, known as the ' sacred 
marriage.' Apart from this Olympian sanction, the 
Athenians regarded monogamy as having been estab- 
lished for themselves by Cecrops, the mythical founder 
of the city (Athen. xiii. 555 D.). 217 Against the 
claim of blood-relationship Apollo advances that of 
marriage, as being at least part of the world's ' order,' 
denoted by the abstract names ' Fate ' (Moira) and 
'Justice.' It is therefore more divine, at any rate, 
than a human covenant between man and man, which 
is merely ' witnessed ' by the gods, and which Zeus 
can overrule, for "he is mightier than an oath " (621). 
221 The term properly belongs to the avenger deputed 
by the kin to ' hunt ' the murderer under the old rule 
of private revenge. 

Apollo and the Chorus retire (234). The action is 


now transferred to the temple of Athena Polias at 
Athens, the change being indicated by placing the 
image of the goddess in front (259). 

237 During the long period intervening Orestes, 
though he had undergone purification at Delphi, has 
wandered ' over land and sea, 1 seeking absolution at 
different shrines of repute and paying the homicide's 
penalty of banishment : in Euripides' version (Iphig. in 
Taur.} he is hunted as far as the Crimea. He is no 
longer a bloodguilty or unshriven penitent (prostro- 
paios). Yet the Erinyes still scent his mother's blood, 
and their contention is that nothing can effectually 
remove the stain. 

Epiparodusj 255-275. 

The Furies re-enter in detachments as in the first 
parodus. According to Wecklein, they are arranged 
in two divisions of six, the leader first speaks alone, 
and the first half-Chorus respond collectively ; then the 
six members of the second half-Chorus follow, chant- 
ing in succession. 272 Hades (the god) is the recorder 
and judge of those sins (sacrilege, perjury, breach of 
hospitality or filial duty) which strike at the root of 
human society. The Erinyes are his assessors, apart 
from their special office in connection with bloodshed. 

Third Episode, 276-306. 

278 A polluted person was excommunicated for fear 
of bringing the curse upon others, which might be 
done (according to the scholiast) even by a look or 
word. Orestes was under such a ban while on his 
way to Delphi, and had kept the rule of silence till 


he was purified there. The poet introduced Telephus 
in his * Mysians ' going speechless on his way from 
Tegea, as a homicide. Euripides (Iph'ig. in Taur. 
947 ff.) makes the silence of Orestes serve to explain 
a peculiar Athenian usage, viz., the drinking from 
separate cups at the festival of the { Choes.' (See 
Miss Harrison, J. H. S. xx. p. no f.) 283 Similar 
virtue was ascribed to this in Rome as an antidote to 
madness (Plautus, Menaech. ii. 2). But here it must 
be connected with the use of the same victim in the 
mysteries (cf. Aristoph. Ach. 787, Pax 373), and for 
the lustration (peristia) of the Athenian ecclesia : the 
place of meeting was called the * purified ground,' 
Ach. 44. A weanling was required as being un- 
tainted ; so in the case of dogs offered to Hecate. 
Cf. 450. 28C Or * cleanses,' but the line is, perhaps, 
an interpolated maxim. ^ Cf. 670 ff., 764 ff. A 
direct political reference rare in Greek tragedy. A 
treaty had been concluded between Argos and Athens, 
B.C. 459, the year before the performance of the 
Trilogy, and it was accepted by the aristocratic party. 
Apart from the immediate motive, it was natural for 
the poet, adopting the legend of Orestes' visit to 
Athens, to dwell on the friendship between the two 
cities. Now that political events drew them closely 
together, the legend might appear in a sense prophetic. 
294 A picturesque description clearly suggested by the 
disposition of drapery on the feet of a seated figure, 
such as was, probably, the ancient image of Athena 
Polias. The * erect step, 1 on the other hand, points 
to the attitude seen in the illustration and familiar in 
Panathenic vases, where the left foot is straight before 
the right. There was a strange legend of Athena's 


birth which localised it by the lake Tritonis (now 
Lowdeah) in Libya (Herod, iv. 1 80), where the natives 
identified a goddess of their own with her. The 
local tradition, according to Herodotus, made her the 
daughter of the lake (cf. her Homeric epithet Trito- 
geneia, ' Trito-born, 1 and Poseidon, and only the 
adoptive child of Zeus. This becomes still more 
strange when coupled with the story of her birth 
from the head of Zeus (667 f.). There is, however, a 
political motive in this allusion also. The Athenians 
had recently (B.C. 460) sent a fleet to aid Inarus, 
one of the Libyan vassals of Persia, in a revolt against 
his suzerain (Thucyd. i. 104 ff.). Hence the goddess 
is described as championing her friends. 295 As though 
she were again marshalling the gods to battle against 
the giants, cf. Pindar, Nem. i. 100. The scene of 
the Gigantomachia was laid by Pindar, and probably 
by Aeschylus, at the plain called Phlegraean (' fiery ""), 
which formed part of Pallene in the Chalcidic penin- 
sula. 302 This line will bear another rendering : 
' bloodless victim, scared at a shadow ' [R. Shilleto], 
305 A metaphor derived from the criminals who, at 
Athens, were < kept ' at public expense to be put to 
death in atonement for the sins of the people. 306 Lit. 
' hymn of binding, 1 that is, devoting to the infernal 
gods, like the incantation (katadesii) employed against 
an enemy. The recurring refrain is characteristic of 
a magic song. 

First Stasimon, 307-396. 

The opening passage is in the marching (anapaestic) 
measure, recited by the leader, while the sections 
range themselves together. The refrain (marked in 


the translation by rhyme) was probably sung by the 
full Chorus. 322 The parentage of the Erinyes was 
assigned by a more definite genealogical tradition to 
Earth (Hesiod, Theog. 185). This would hardly have 
accorded with the scheme adopted by Aeschylus in 
the prologue, which affiliated Apollo, the enemy of 
the Erinyes, through Leto and Phoebe, to Gaia. 
Hence he falls back on Night, a being gendered, 
according to Hesiod, along with Earth out of Chaos. 
Sophocles restored Earth to her proper place and con- 
verted the mother * Night ' into a father * Darkness ' 
(Skotos), Oed. Col. 40, 106. 323 One of the names of 
the Erinyes is used to describe their office, viz., Poina 
(penalty, payment), because they exact the penalty for 
blood. 33 Cf. Shakspeare, Hamlet, iii. I, " like sweet 
bells jangled." The burden of this 'binding 1 hymn 
is madness, of which the poet conceives as a whirling 
and dancing of the brain (Choeph. 1022 ff.), answering 
to the terrible dance of the Erinyes (376). Their per- 
secution does not represent remorse, which Orestes 
did not feel, but a physical disease allied to the leprosy 
and other plagues ascribed to them, and connected 
perhaps with their sucking of the blood from the 
body. Modern science, which substitutes the brain 
for the indefinite seat of thought (phrenei), has estab- 
lished that cerebral anaemia is among the causes of 
insane delusions. The epithet applied to the hymn 
means literally ' without the lyre ' (phorminx\ which 
may imply the converse accompaniment of the flute 
and the Phrygian mode, as Drake suggests. The 
latter was either doleful or exciting and tumultuous, 
unlike the calm and grave tones of the lyre. 335 An 
'allotment' 1 of offices and dignities was first made for 


the older * Titan ' dynasty, and this was not disturbed 
by Zeus. He was careful to confirm the old order. 
See Hesiod, Theog. 421-5 (of Hecate), cf. Prom. V. 
244. 352 The white linen robe (pharos) was associ- 
ated with solemn festivals, just as the long linen tunic 
called ' Ionian ' remained in use for ceremonial occa- 
sions. 2 The sense of this difficult passage appears 
to be : " we are concerned to bar the gods 1 authority 
in prayers addressed to us, and so avoid all quarrel 
with them."" 3S1 This sense is conveyed with simple 
solemnity in the Greek : " it (our law) abides." 387 We 
are reminded of Dante's Inferno by this conception of 
a region which is made c steep and rugged ' for the 
sinner by the Furies always on his track. 

Fourth Episode, 397-489. 

Athena enters walking (L.) and retires at the close 
of the scene on her way to the city, where she appears 
in the next scene assembling the court. 

398 Sigeion, a town of the Troad, the possession of 
which was long disputed between Athens and the 
Aeolians of Mitylene. According to a scholiast, this 
is another allusion with a political motive ; the poet 
is urging the Athenians to reassert their claim to the 
place, which the Mitylenaeans had won in a previous 
war by a duel, in which their champion was victorious. 
It appears, however, that it had belonged to Athens 
from the time (about a hundred years before the date 
of the play) when Peisistratus took it (Herod, v. 95). 
The poet merely gives a realistic colour to the scene 
by recalling a legend engrafted in the interest of 
Athens on the Trojan epic, to the effect that Athena 


had received Sigeion in trust for Acamas and Demo- 
phon, the sons of Theseus, after the conquest of Troy. 
These heroes do not appear in the ///W, where Athens 
is insignificant ; they were introduced in the Little 
Iliad of Lesches. Colonists occupying a new site set 
apart a portion for a temple in honour of their patron 
god, and where there had been a military conquest, 
this was regarded as equivalent to the gift of a * choice 
portion ' of the spoils to the king in the heroic times. 
There was a temple of Athena on the promontory by 
Sigeion, dedicated by the Athenian colonists. 405 The 
description of the goddess ' plying unwearied feet ' 
shows that the chariot is only a fanciful and somewhat 
ludicrous metaphor for the aegis carrying her along. 
(But the line describing it may have been interpolated 
for a later performance, when the mechanl was em- 
ployed.) The earlier conception of the aegis as a 
lightning-like shield (//. xv. 307) had given place to 
that of a mantle (goatskin) draped round the shoulders, 
to which the Gorgon's head was attached. 417 This 
name (lit. ' imprecations ') suggests the personified 
curse, as an early conception of the Erinys ; so the 
plural is used, //. xix. 87. The word, however, at a 
still earlier stage, had probably a closer association with 
the Underworld : Fick, deriving it from eri(v\ ' to be 
wroth,' suggests that it was originally an epithet of 
Demeter, while Miss Harrison (' Delphika ') thinks it 
denoted simply the jealous or offended ghost. 429 This 
scene represents the preliminary hearing (anakrisis y 
prodikasia), which was commenced by a mutual chal- 
lenge (proklesis) by the plaintiff and defendant, who 
thus made a sworn declaration of good faith before 
the evidence was heard. At this stage the prosecutors 


complain that Orestes will neither deny their charge 
on oath nor challenge them to swear to the justice of 
it. He refuses on the ground that the challenge does 
not cover his plea, which is that of a justifying motive. 
But, as Wecklein observes, " the Erinyes as Titanic 
nature-powers concern themselves only with the deed, 
not with the motives." 433 The defendant was en- 
titled to protest, on grounds set forth in an affidavit 
(paragraphe\ against the hearing of the case, which 
was otherwise proceeded with ' directly,' without a 
preliminary argument on the point of law. Athena 
is asked to assume from Orestes 1 silence that he has 
no initial protest to make, and to proceed to take the 
evidence. W1 Before the Apolline rites of absolution 
had been instituted, Ixion, king of the Lapithae or 
Phlegyes, the first man guilty of slaying a kinsman 
(Deioneus), sued to Zeus as the god of suppliants 
(hikesios) and was purified by him. Zeus, therefore, 
could be regarded as the first founder of these rites, 
and the * purifier ' in chief (katharsios^ Herod, i. 44). 
From this point of view, presumably, the story was 
dramatised by Aeschylus in earlier tragedies, entitled 
Ixion and the Perrhaibtdes. W5 Orestes disclaims the 
comparison between himself and Ixion, who at the 
time of his suit was bloodguilty. 461 In the scene fol- 
lowing Clytemnestra's death, Choeph. 980. ^ Athena 
retires into the temple. 

Second Stasimon, 490-565. 

505 Or 'learn of woe on woe ensuing' (lit. 
4 the allotment and succession of woes,' R. Shilleto). 
52i The word has a wide range of meaning : 


" modesty, humility, temperance, frugality, obedience, 
in one word, sobermindedness " (Bishop Porteous). 
529 Cf. Agam. 389, 477. The same conception meets 
us in proverbial forms, e.g. " the half is more than the 
whole" (Hesiod). 533 Cf. Agam. 759 ff. Violence 
(hubris) is the extreme opposite of that self-control 
and self-respect, which are the obverse of piety and 
reverence. M7 Two of the strictly primitive com- 
mandments, derived from the patriarchal age of 
Greece. M9 Cf. Philistus (quoted by Drake): "the 
just man is not he who doth no wrong, | but he who 
might do wrong and willeth not." 557 A Greek term 
for the yardarm. 56 The divine jealousy (nemesis) in a 
personal form, called up to punish the over-wealthy. 
Athena now returns, accompanied by the nobles, who 
are to form the first council. The scene is now 
supposed to be changed to the Areiopagos, the back- 
ground being simply ignored, as in the Choephoroe (see 
note ad init.}. 

Fifth Episode, 566-783. 

567 The procedure is naturally borrowed from con- 
temporary Athens, where the trumpet was used in 
convening an extraordinary assembly (ecclesia) and at 
the solemn festival of the * Choes ' (Aristoph. Acharn. 
1001). The epithet * Tyrrhene ' (i.e. Etruscan) is 
employed, according to poetical usage, to denote ex- 
cellence ; for the Etruscan bronze was celebrated. 
The earliest notice of the Greek trumpet is in a 
Homeric simile (//. xviii. 219) ; it is, however, ex- 
cluded from the descriptions of battle, where we hear 
only of the herald's clear voice and the heroic war- 
cry. 673 Orestes or Apollo, but see note on 1. 709. 


585 A scholiast here states that the chorus in this 
play numbered fifteen, but the internal evidence is 
decidedly in favour of twelve, as that number is 
established for the Agamemnon by the twelve speeches 
of the elders in the scene of the murder (1338 ff.), 
and we have here a corresponding number of inter- 
rogations. Hermann argues, less safely, from the 
division of the Parodus (140 ff.), that there were 
seven pairs of voices, which with the leader would 
give a chorus of fifteen. 589 Cf. Agam. 171. 595 An 
ironical allusion to Apollo in his office of ' expounder ' 
(exegetes) of the ritual and the sacred law (cf. 609). 
604 In other words, had Agamemnon no Erinys to 
avenge him ? The poet allows Orestes (Choeph. 923) 
to speak of 'a father's vengeful hounds, 1 and Sophocles 
(Elect. 490) contemplates them as aiding his deed of 
retribution. Clytemnestra's offerings imply as much. 
The reply of the Chorus narrows the office of the 
Erinyes to the extreme limit, making them responsible 
only where there is actual consanguinity. 621 Cf. 489. 
Apollo appears to set the sacerdotal above the civil 
law. Presiding over the former, he claims the right 
to grant a dispensation from the obligation of a judicial 
oath. The primitive code made the oath paramount 
and binding on Zeus himself, but the sacerdotal power 
set up a law of its own ; to rebel against this was 
' rebellion against God ' (theomachia). We have a 
similar disparagement of the oath as a civil covenant 
(1. 2 1 8). 626 The Homeric view of the sceptre, with 
special reference to that of Agamemnon with its great 
tradition (//. ii. 101). 631 Or 'right loyal to his own 1 
(see Classical Rev. i.). 645 The release of Kronos and 
the Titans was part of the legend on which Aeschylus 


founded his Promethean trilogy. 656 The washing of 
hands was the preliminary of every sacrifice. The 
institution of a cult founded on the phratria or clan is 
here assumed. It is attested for the Homeric age by 
the description of an outlaw as 'one without clan 
or law or hearth' (//. ix. 63). In Attica it was 
highly organised : the citizens were grouped in twelve 
tribes, each worshipping its own supposed ancestors 
and holding a festival in common, called the Apa- 
turia, in honour of 'common fatherhood. 1 66 Lit., 
4 as stranger for stranger,' the term (xenos) implying 
hospitality, but no nearer tie. This is an extreme 
statement of an opinion which prevailed at Athens 
especially, and was emphasised there by the social 
inferiority of the wife. The poet elsewhere (Suppl. 
256 f.) calls the father the 'male designer,' who puts 
the stamp (character) on the child, male or female, 
when it has left the mould, a metaphor from the coin, 
which ranked in Greece as a precious work of art. 
Euripides borrows the argument, and puts it in the 
mouth of Orestes himself (Orest. 552, cf. frag. 1048). 
665 Aeschylus and Pindar follow the tradition recorded 
in the Hesiodic Theogony, that Zeus swallowed his 
wife, Metis (Counsel), when she was about to bring 
forth Athena, after which the goddess sprang from 
his head. Apollo conveniently suppresses the wife. 
673 See note on 1. 290. 683 Aegeus, father of Theseus, 
is introduced as a name glorious in Athenian legends ; 
he was the eponymous hero of one of the Attic tribes. 
68(5 The story (given in a late epic, entitled Amazonia 
or Atthis) was that Theseus had made prisoner and 
carried off the Amazon Antiope, and her sister war- 
riors invaded Attica for the sake of rescuing her. 


The battle was the subject of a painting by Micon 
in the Stoa Poikile. 689 The Amazons worshipped 
Ares ; their queen, Penthesileia, was his daughter. 
Another popular etymology explained the name in 
connection with the trial of Ares. The fortifying 
of the hill as a counterwork to the Acropolis may 
have been suggested to the poet by the fact of its 
occupation by the Persians (Herod, viii. 52). 695 An 
adaptation of a proverb applied to those who * mingle 
the fairest with the foulest, 1 like our saying, * the 
corruption of the best is the worst.' 703 Scythia 
stands for the uncivilised world, the antipodes of 
Greece, which is represented by the Peloponnese 
(the part for the whole). As the passage commen- 
cing 1. 683 follows somewhat awkwardly in that 
place, while the inauguration would appropriately 
come after the opening proclamation (568 ff.), Weck- 
lein conjectures that we have here a later appen- 
dix, Athena's abrupt and unanswered question (678) 
being inserted to lead up to it, and her speech (674 f.) 
changed to the interrogative form for the same 
purpose. Supposing, therefore, that the balloting 
originally began after 1. 675, there will be a con- 
tinuous series of twelve distichs (676 f., 679 f., 
711-30), spoken alternately by the Chorus - leader 
and Apollo, and, as it is probable that the number 
of the judges was twelve, corresponding with that 
of the gods who tried Ares (or Orestes, according to 
another account, Eurip. Orest. 1650), Wecklein infers 
that the votes for conviction were deposited one by one 
when the former spoke, and those for acquittal during 
Apollo's replies. 724 Zeus had struck down Asclepios, 
son of Apollo (see Agam. 1022), who in return slew the 



Cyclopes, the forgers of the thunder. As an atone- 
ment Apollo was bound to service in the house of a 
mortal, Admetus, son of Pheres. In gratitude for 
the piety of his host, the god persuaded the Fates, 
whom he made drunk, to relieve him from dying at 
his appointed time, on condition that another life was 
offered for his : the sequel is the subject of the Alcesth 
of Euripides, founded on the legend in the Hesiodic 
Catalogue. The story, including the drugging of the 
Fates, was already known through an Alcestis of Phry- 
nichus. 735 Athena holds her ballot in readiness to use 
it, if the votes are equally divided, but not otherwise 
7 (cf. 41). An old-established rule of Athenian law 
gave the accused the advantage in this contingency. 
The poet regards this as a sacred institution, founded 
by Athena at the trial of Orestes and borrowed by the 
Athenian law-courts from the procedure of the Areio- 
pagus. See also Euripides, referring to the trial in his 
Electra (1266 f., cf. Iphig. in Taur. 966, 1471). Such 
a dispensing power could belong only to a god. It 
was not for a human tribunal, having for its one duty 
to punish and repress crime, to pardon a culprit, when 
the arguments for and against him were of equal 
weight ; but a god could alter the balance by an 
arbitrary act of authority. 738 Athena ('she of the 
mighty sire '), in the Epic, is peculiarly the child of 
her father, endowed with 'strength and thoughtful 
counsel ' equal to his. The aegis belonged to her as 
well as to Zeus, //. v. 738. This preference for the 
father, whatever its special motive here, was a common- 
place ; cf. Eurip. Elect. 934 f. The son was expected 
to inherit and to emulate the father's manly and civic 
qualities and to follow him in serving the state ; hence 


the tie was a stronger one than that of simple paren- 
tage. 746 Death by hanging implies the last extremity 
of misery, for it was shameful even for a slave. It is 
cruelly inflicted by Odysseus on his women-slaves as 
a punishment for their treachery (Od. xx.). 749 Two 
methods of counting were employed in the Athenian 
courts, (i.) One urn was for the used ballots, black 
(for conviction) and white (for acquittal) ; into the 
other (the ' inoperative urn ') the waste ballots were 
thrown, so that they gave no clue to the voting. The 
ballots (pebbles) in the * operative ' urn were separated, 
the black from the white, in sight of the court, and 
the result announced, (ii.) There was an 'urn of 
mercy ' and an ' urn of death, 1 in which the votes 
were respectively deposited and then counted. Here 
the term 4 sorting 1 might appear to point to the former 
method, in which case we must suppose that Athena 
holds up a white pebble (735) and afterwards (753) adds 
it to the six votes of acquittal. But the context strongly 
indicates the contrary, for there is stress on the count- 
ing (748), and two urns have to be cleared (742) ; by 
' sorting ' we must understand merely separating their 
contents. The poet in a parallel passage (Agam. 817) 
clearly refers to the second method, and the same is 
assumed by Aristophanes in the Jfasps, where the 
voter is made by stealth to drop his ballot into an urn 
of acquittal. 75<J That is, invoked with the third liba- 
tion as ' Saviour. 1 764 A more specific allusion to the 
defensive alliance with Argos (290). The passage fol- 
lowing (767 ff.), in which Orestes threatens the Argives 
with disaster if they should invade Attica, is suspected 
by Dindorf and Wecklein as having been interpolated 
after the Argives had abandoned the alliance, viz. in 


the fifteenth year of the Peloponnesian war, when they 
sided with Sparta and made an inroad into Attica. A 
very similar * prophecy ' in Euripides 1 Suppllces (1191 ff.) 
was probably prompted by that event. 767 The ghosts 
would cause not merely alarms but actual disasters by 
sending evil dreams and omens from the grave to strike 
dismay at critical moments. 777 Apollo and Orestes 
leave the stage ; the judges remain (cf. 949). Euri- 
pides (Orestes) sends him to Arcadia and to Athens, 
where he is to be tried and acquitted. Ultimately he 
marries Hermione, daughter of Menelaus and Helen, 
and rules in Argos. 

Third Stasimon Sixth Episode, 784-919. 

784 if. A description of blight as a pestilential eman- 
ation from the * heart ' of the Erinys, poisoning the 
life of the earth at its source. 803 With Wieseler's 
emendation, this depicts the tender bloom (' down ") of 
the young plants flecked by mildew. 8 5 This is the 
chasm sacred to the Eumenides, still to be seen on the 
N. E. side of the Areiopagus. Cf. Eurip. Elect. 1270 
and the allusions in the closing scene (1023). It was 
apparently within the * precinct. 1 The cavern-temple 
contained low altars of the simple kind called eschara 
(806). The epithet applied to these is explained by 
Miiller (by inference from the cult of Demeter Erinys 
at Phigaleia) as meaning that the Eumenides were wor- 
shipped with oil poured on wool. It is worth notice 
that the sacred stones at the cross-roads, where the 
infernal Hecate was worshipped, were oiled (as Theo- 
phrastus tells us) by passers-by of a superstitious turn. 
835 Offerings were made on behalf of the bride to 


deities associated with marriage (Artemis, Hera), to 
the Fates as presiding over life and death, and to 
the Eumenides as controlling the sources of fertility. 
849 The wisdom that goes with age, as the scholiast 
explains. 855 The joint temple of Athene and Erec- 
theus, known as the Erectheion, on the Acropolis, 
which was not merely close to the Areiopagus, but 
connected with it by a ridge. 858 ~ 66 This passage is 
suspected by Wecklein on account of its l strongly 
pronounced political tendency and mannered style, 1 
and the allusion to foreign war as if it were actually 
impending. The imagery, however, is thoroughly 
Aeschylean. 861 The cock had a bad reputation as 
the pertinacious bird, which fought with its own 
kindred. So Pindar speaks of * the cock that fights 
but at home.' 1 Cf. A gam. 1671. 869 The piety of 
Athens is extolled by Aeschylus (cf. 912, 920), and 
the Oedipus Coloneus of Sophocles is full of the same 
sentiment. It is one of the themes of Pericles in his 
funeral oration, Thuc. ii. 41. 886 Suasion (Peitho) is 
so far personified that she figures as a goddess in Greek 

Exodus, 920-1047. 

920 The Persian invasion was regarded as an assault 
on the gods of Greece, the more because the invaders 
destroyed the temples. 935 The sins of previous gene- 
rations ; cf. Choeph. 402. 941 The nursery with its 
measured rows of young vines and fig trees. 944 With 
another emendation [Meineke] the blessing of Pan is 
invoked ; but the Euminides would hardly call in this 
new-comer as their partner. 947 The ' earth's rich 
progeny ' is here mineral wealth, as is evident from an 


epithet connecting it with Hermes, the god of treasure- 
trove. The silver mines of Laurion and Thoricus in 
Attica were State property ; cf. Herod, vii. 144. This 
1 spring of wealth ' is noticed, Pers. 238. %0 Those 
who have the rightful control of marriage, viz., Zeus, 
Hera (214), and Aphrodite. The Fates are their asses- 
sors (217). They are addressed as * sisters by the same 
mother ' (Night), having no father (Hesiod, Theog. 
213, 217). 973 l Zeus of the agora,' the place of public 
debate in the old times. Cf. Agam. 90. 9s6 A varia- 
tion of the phrase l to have the same friends and 
enemies, 1 which was used in treaties of alliance. 
992 Equivalent to the peculiarly Attic title Eumenides 
(the ' gracious '), which does not, however, occur in 
this play. Cf. 1030, where the same epithet recurs. 
998 The Athenians dwell < under the wings ' of the 
goddess presiding above in the Acropolis, and ' near to 
Zeus, 1 who had from of old his altars on the Hill, one 
dedicated to i Zeus the highest, 1 another to ' Zeus the 
guardian of the city. 1 1004 The supplementary chorus 
of women now advance, as if from the temple of 
Athena, carrying torches. The allusion to sacrifice 
implies only that one was preparing at the entrance of 
the cavern, which would be out of sight. lon This 
old name was attached to the Hill itself (Cranac, 'the 
rocky '). The early * Pelasgic " settlers there were 
accordingly called * Cranaoi " and their king * Cranaos. 1 
1022 Compare the closing scene of Aristophanes' Frogs, 
where Aeschylus is escorted back to earth by torch- 
light, associated as here with the Underworld. 23 See 
the description of the Areiopagus, Pausanias i. 28. He 
notices in connection with the temple statues of 


Hermes, Ploutos, and Gaia, as well as images of the 
infernal goddesses themselves, with no suggestion of 
terror about them. These, as we are informed by a 
scholiast, were three in number, the work of Calamis 
and Scopas : they stood, presumably, outside the 
temple, the precinct of which extended some way 
toward the Acropolis. A tomb of Oedipus was 
shown there, notwithstanding the legend of his burial 
at Colonus, which Sophocles followed. In the vicinity 
was an altar of " Athene Areia, which Orestes erected 
when he escaped punishment." On this and the 
name Areiopagos see Miss Harrison, Mythol. and 
Monuments of Ancient Athens, E. 23. She conjectures 
that the connection of the place with Ares is due to a 
mistaken etymology, and that the original name was 
'Hill of the Arai ' or Curses (see note on 1.417). 
4 The image here is the old xoanon. In the later 
Parthenon the goddess had various attendants, e.g. the 
' table-bearer, 1 the tire-woman, the arrhephori, who 
carried her sacred emblems in procession. 1025 In the 
Greek idiom the procession is called the * eye,' i.e. the 
pride of the land ; cf. Choeph. 934 and Pers. 171 (" the 
master's presence is the eye of the house "). The 
reference being in the future, it need not be supposed 
that the train of ' maids and matrons and aged women ' 
appears on the stage. 1028 Purple (i.e. crimson) was 
from Homeric times the most sumptuous ware. 

1037 The e pi t het (' Ogygian ') denotes dim antiquity. 
It is applied by Hesiod (Theog. 806) to the Styx. 

1038 Silence was a special feature of the cult of the 
Semnai (the ' awful ' goddesses), as the Eumenides were 
named at Athens. Their priestesses, letteirae (public 


ministrants), were chosen from the Hesychidae, a 
house supposed to be descended from a hero Hesychus 
(the ' silent '), whose shrine was close by. Oedipus 
(Oed. Col. 489) is charged not to speak aloud in pray- 
ing to them. 


Agamemnon : 6, 7 Housman, 29 Verrall, 69 vulg., 128 f. 
Housman, 141 vulg., 374 Hermann, 412 Hermann, Weck- 
lein, 612 Editor, 767 Paley, 948 vulg., 1041 Blomfield, 
1172 Hermann, Kennedy, 1194 vulg., 1216 Weil, 1235 
O. Miiller, 1322 vulg., 1563 vulg., 1605 Verrall, 1650 
Paley, 1660 vulg. 

Choephoroe : 73 f. Hermann, 131 Schneidewin, 279 Ver- 
rall, 450 Editor, 482 Clausen, 544 Metzger, 624-30 Editor, 
644 f. Macnaghten, 650 Lachmann, 656 Hermann, 831-7 

Eumenide s : 358 Paley, 445 Person, 803 Wieseler, 944 
Dobree, 989 Musgrave. 


(A. = Agamemnon, C. = Choephoroe, E. = Eumenides) 
The references are to the Commentary and Introductory Essays 

AEGIS, E. 405 

Aeschylus, xliv (note), xlviii 
,, style of, A. 1411, 

Agamemnon, xxxv f., C. 982 

Altars, A. 513, 519 (incense), 

1056, 1277; C, 109 (tomb); 

E. 164 (seat) 
Amazons, E. 689 
Amyclae, A. 43 
Archilochus, xxiv, xxviii 
Areiopagus, xliii f., E. 689 
Arion, xxiv f. 

Aristotle, xxii f. (rise of tragedy) 
Artemis, A. 140 
Athena, xliii, E. 80 (images),294, 

665, 748, 1024, 735 (ballot) 
Augury, A. 116; C. 259 

Balloting, E. 749 
Betyls, E. 40 
Birthday gifts, E. 4 
Bloodshed, C. 67 
Bows, C. 161 
Burial, A. 455 


' Charon's steps,' E. 93 

Choerilus, xxx 

Chorus, A. 1347; E. 585, 1004 
.. (cyclic), xxv 

Choes, xxi, E. 278, 567 

Cleanthes, A. 180 

Clytemnestra, xxxvii ff., C. 918, 
10 1 1 (her wea- 

in Sophocles, 


Curtain, A. 1372 ; C. 973 

DANTE, A. 239 

Delos, E. 9 

Delphi, C. 1037; E. i. 14, 27- 


Demeter, C. 128 
Dice, A. 33 
Dionysia, xx ff. 
Dionysus, xviii (name) 
Dithyramb, xxiv 
Divination, A. 1135, 1265, 1270 
Dodona, xli 
Dreams, C. 271, 525 
Drink-offerings, C. 15, 150 

EARTH (Gaia), xlix, E. 2 f. 
Eleusis, C. 128 (doctrine) 
Ephialtes, xliv (note) 
Epimenides, E. 62 




Erinyes, A. 59. 70; C. 150 (liba- 
tions), 283, 406 ; E. 48-55 
(description), 107 f. (offer- 
5n g s )> 3" (parentage), 417 

Eumenides, E. 805 (shrine, cf. 

x 3) 8 3S 99* 
Euripides, C. 237 

FATE (Moira), C. 306, 647; E. 
28, 217, 960 

Funeral customs, C. 6, 8 (dedi- 
cation of hair), 9 (prothe- 
sis), 15 (drink-offerings), 98 
(wreaths), 129 (lustration), 

GALL, .183 

Giant, A. 692; C. 1047 

Gorgon, E. 48 

HADES, xlvii, C. 517; E. 767 

Harpies, E. 50 

Hearth (Delphic), C. 1037 

Helena, A. 686 

Hera, .214 

Heracles, A. 1041 

Hermes, C. i, 815; E. 89, 91, 


Hesychidz. E. 108, 1038 

Homicide (see Areiopagus), C. 
313, 1038 

House, C. 653 (door), 801 (trea- 

Hyperboreans, C. 373 

IMAGES, A. 520 
Inarus, E. 294 
Iphigeneia, xxxvi, A. 239; C. 

Ixion, E. 441 

KOMMOS, A. 1449 

King (as priest), C. 243 

LEMNUS, C. 634 
Lenaea, xx ff. 
Leprosy, C. 278 
Libations, A. 246; C. 15 
Linos, A. 121 
Loxias, E. 62 

MADNESS, A. 1408; C. 1002; 

E. 330 

Masks, C. 172 

Medicine, A. 17, 849 ; 0.471,539 
Metaphors, A. 36, 180, 364, 

650, 1182, 1473 
Metoeci, A. 57 
Mixing-bowl, C. 344 
Mutilation, C. 439 
Mycenae, A. 24 

NAMES, A. 686 (cf. 699); C. 949 
Nemesis, A. 754, 920 

OATHS, xliii, E. 621 
Oil, A. 96 
Ololugmos, A. 1117 
Omens, A. 980; C. 249, 259 
Omphalos, E. 39 f. 
Orestes, xl, C. 315 ; E. 777 
Outlawry, C. 292 

PAEAN, A. 246, 645 ; C. 151, 344 
Painting, A. 241 
Pan, xxiv, A. 57 ; E. 23 
Parentage, C. 502 ; E. 660, 738 
Parodus, A. 40 
Pelasgians, E. 1001 
Persia, A. 282 ; C. 423 ; E. 186 
Persians, the, xxxii 
Phoebus, Phoebe, C. 34 : .4 
i Philomela, A. 1144 

220 . 


Philtres, C. 1029 
Phrynichus, xxxii 
Pratinas, xxiv, xxvi f. 
Prologue, A. i 
Prometheus, xlviii f., A. 312 

(Purkaeus), xxvii 

Prophetae, E. 32 
Purification, C. 98 ; E. 278, 283 

Retaliation. C. 122, 313 
River-gods, C. 6 

SATYRS, xxiv 
Satyr-drama, xxvii 
Sculpture, C. 671 ; E. 294 
Serpent (chthonic), E. 127 
Seven against Thebes, xxxii, xxxvi 
Sleep (divination in), E. 105 
Sphinx, A. 80 (riddle) 
Sigeion, E. 398 
Silver-mines, E. 947 
Sophocles, A. 24 ; C. 242 

Stesichorus, xxxvi 
Stoning, A. 1117 
Suppliants, xxxii 

Theseus, xix, xxx 
Thespis, xxix 
Tombs, C. 4, 722 
Torch-race, A. 312 
Tripod (Delphic), E. 29 
Trumpet, E. 567 

VEIL (bridal), A. 1179 ; C. 492 
Version, second, E. 405, 683, 

764, 858 
Voting-urns, A. 817 

WEAVING, C. 232 
Wings, A. 664; E. 51 
Wrestling, ^C. 498 

ZEUS, lii f., A. 180, 246, 972; 
c - 2 45. 395: E-973. 998 


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